CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Jeff Larentowicz made it sound as if his teammates would make better use of a protractor than a pair of cleats in Saturday’s game against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium.
The five-time MLS Cup champions will be taking on their Eastern Conference-leading foes on a field that stretches MLS dimension guidelines – but perhaps not in the way intended.
The pitch reportedly measures out at 110 yards by 70 yards – the smallest in MLS and the smallest allowed by FIFA’s international guidelines. The only other MLS teams to play on fields that short are D.C. United and Portland, and only New York City and Houston play on surfaces as narrow as 70 yards. StubHub Center, where the Galaxy play, is 120 yards by 80 yards, the league’s biggest.
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes was quoted as saying the Yankee Stadium field could be a couple of yards shorter than its listed length.
“It’s bizarre,” said Larentowicz who played at Yankee Stadium last May 15 with the Chicago Fire in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie.
The pitch understandably does not have many fans among the league’s players, although there are some who don’t mind the snug confines.
“The field is nice and tight,” New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips recently told the New York Post. “The style of play we play, it benefits us.”
Wright-Phillips was in an understandably good mood that day after the Red Bulls routed New York City 7-0.
Larentowicz, on the other hand, said the field made it difficult to get his bearings.
“When you’re in the stadium, especially as a defender, you’re looking for right angles,” he said. “You’re looking for where the line is so you can defend properly. If you watch games there it’s difficult for the back four to get into position, and that’s because one sideline is completely open. And it goes for however many yards toward home plate where you don’t really know where everything is.
“It makes it tough. I think that’s a different thing, but it is tight. One turnover, one pass can be an own goal.”
The Galaxy’s A.J. DeLaGarza said playing in such a facility and in a small area is nothing new.
“For this league,” he said, “it’s not very unusual. We’ve played in quite a few baseball stadiums. Obviously this is where the Yankees play … kind of America’s team, I guess.
“It will be special to say you played in Yankee Stadium. A soccer game in Yankee Stadium,” he added with a laugh. “Not many people can say that.”