CARSON, Calif. – While the LA Galaxy have scouted the Seattle Sounders thoroughly and have a general idea of what to expect, there is one aspect of their first-round opponents that needs no prior research: Qwest Field’s artificial surface.
“The turf is a different animal altogether,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter said. “You play a different way. You count on the ball going faster, moving faster, skipping out of bounds, bouncing differently so you have to prepare for that. That’s all the things you take into consideration when playing on turf.”
The Sounders feature several speedy players, including Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi, and the surface there may play to their advantage. The Sounders were particularly effective at home, compiling an 8-4-3 regular season mark and winning the U.S. Open Cup against the Columbus Crew at Qwest Field.
“No one likes to play on the surface,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “I don’t think the Sounders like to play on it, but it is what it is. I’d rather be playing on that surface than playing at altitude.
“We’ll get to train on it Saturday and we obviously have played a number of games there," Arena added. "We’ve played two there last year, one this year, so we’ve been in the stadium, on the field. So we’re well aware of what that brings.”
At least one Galaxy player was wary about discussing on the surface at all.
“Last time I commented on artificial turf I got myself in trouble,” said David Beckham, referring to comments he made in 2007 regarding BMO Field’s then-turf surface. “At the end of the day, it is what it is. We have to go there, we have to play and it’s the same for both teams. Obviously it’s an advantage for them because they play on it every other week.”
Beckham made his first appearance of the season on Sept. 11 against the Columbus Crew after missing most of the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
“Normally, for my game, it’s fine,” he said of the FieldTurf. “But after my injury, it’s going to be the first time I’ve played on this surface. We train on it on Saturday, so I’ll get some kind of guide on what it’s going to be like… We’ll be doing certain drills with the team.
“You know, it’s important that I don’t do too much on it because I don’t want to be sore for the game. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. I’ve got to play on it no matter what. So we’ll just hope for the best.”
When it comes down to it, though, what will make the difference in the Sunday’s game won’t necessarily be the surface but rather who performs better on it.
“I think it’s just the thought of it really,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall said. “When you go out there, the ball bounces a bit differently but other than that you don’t really notice it when you’re playing. You’re just trying to get involved in the game and do your own thing. We’ve done well when we’ve played on it… It’s nothing to be concerned about for us.”
The Galaxy travel to Seattle this Sunday, October 31 for a 5 p.m. match against the Sounders on ESPN2/Deportes. The Galaxy will then host Seattle in the second game of the two-leg, home-and-home Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, November 7 at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN. BUY TICKETS