When Will Toronto FC Lose the Field Turf?

Fred NockContributor IJuly 27, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 04: Kevin Harmse #5 of the Toronto FC and Macoumba Kandji #30 of the New York Red Bulls get tangled up at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on October 4, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Toronto defeated New York 3-1.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

Toronto FC has a glaring weakness.  It isn't strategy, or personnel.  It's political.  The turf at BMO field is bad and the players don't like playing on it.  They are suffering because of a compromise that was made between the club and the city when BMO field was first opened that it had to be used for more than MLS soccer, it had to be used 365 days a year.  Grass could never stand up to the punishment.  And so here we are. 

But is it that bad after all FieldTurf's press release in 2007 seems to indicate that the players are lucky to have the privilidge of playing on the stuff.

"We are delighted that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Toronto FC have put their faith in our product," said John Gilman. "The players, coaches, and fans will find that FieldTurf is a more consistent surface for soccer than natural grass and the players will enjoy truer rolls."

MLS players seem to disagree.  In 2007 when David Beckham came into the MLS, the same year they were deciding on TFC's field surface, he was quoted as saying FieldTurf was part of what was 'wrong' with the MLS, and that soccer should be played on real grass.  Other European clubs feel the same way, so much so that when Euro clubs come to town they put grass down over top of the turf. The club will spend $250,000 to install the temporary grass for their upcoming match with Real Madrid on Aug 7th.

The turf issue has cost Toronto FC players.  It was the deciding factor in forward Darren Huckaby choosing not to sign with the club in 2008.  It was the reason Ronnie O'Brien asked for a trade in 2007 at the end of the season.

And current players are complaining too.  After Ali Gerba's first game on the turf July 22nd versus River Plate of Argentina he said the bumpy BMO turf would 'take some getting used to.'

To be fair the Toronto FC parent company is claiming that they want to have real grass in the stadium by 2010 or 2011.  But the obstacles are many.  They don't own the stadium, the city does.  So there needs to be a new facility built to house the activities that take place on the 300 plus days a year when BMO field is in use by amateur soccer and the like.  Here's hoping it gets sorted out.