Kansas City, Kan. • It was referred to as the ice rink.
The field conditions for the 2013 MLS Cup final at Sporting Park were less than desirable in this, the most important match of the season.
One penalty box at Sporting Park was riddled with shards of ice and clumps of frozen grass. The entire east side of the stadium was, as Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy described, “completely frozen.”
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was an ice rink. That’s for both teams. It’s difficult for them; it’s difficult for us. But yeah, you go out there for warmups and this section down the side of the field was completely frozen.”
Grabavoy said he thought it played a large role in the approach by both clubs to Saturday’s MLS Cup final. Both teams, already wary to throw much of an attack forward, were even more careful about sending flanking outside backs and extra midfielders into the attack for fear of slipping and giving up crucial ground in the coldest recorded match in MLS history.
“I think you probably saw a little bit sloppier and direct game,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me, I figured that’s how it was going to be.”
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said the conditions were “terrible,” adding that one side of the field was soft with pieces of grass coming up when he took goal kicks, while the opposing goal was littered with ice.
When asked if the condition of the field was what he expected heading into the MLS Cup final, RSL coach Jason Kreis didn’t mince words.
“No,” he said. “Whatever kind of system they’ve got, they need to look at revising it, making it better, because it was frozen. The far side of the field was frozen the entire match.”
Going into the final, Kreis said he was aware of a heating system that would keep the field clean of ice and frozen portions.
“If we’re going to have more finals in December,” he said, “we’re going to have to have better heating systems.”