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Turf a deal breaker for most transfer-bound MLS players

ESPN study reveals how MLS players actually feel about artificial playing surfaces.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at New England Revolution
In an ESPN poll, most MLS players said a turf surface (like the one at Gillette Stadium, above) would be a deterrent to joining a new club.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In MLS, you’ll find artificial playing surfaces in Portland, Atlanta, Foxboro and several other cities across the country. And from coast to coast, you’ll find players who refuse to play on anything but pristine, natural grass.

Earlier this week, ESPN highlighted this truth in its MLS Confidential report. When asked the question, “If a stadium had an artificial surface, would it impact your decision to join that team?” a confident 63 percent answered “yes.” One anonymous respondent said, “I don’t like turf, plain and simple. The times I played on it, it takes a day or two extra to recover.”

Later in the survey, a respondent who deemed Gillette Stadium the “hardest place to play in MLS” had harsh words for the stadium’s environment and playing surface: “New England is tough because the crowds are pretty small, and the field’s not great, and it’s just a weird vibe going into that game.”

Over the years, several big-name players, from Thierry Henry to Michael Bradley, have made their feelings known about Gillette Stadium’s playing surface. Their comments (Bradley went on a rant about the stadium’s turf last fall) and actions (Henry routinely avoided playing in Foxboro) parallel the responses of those polled in MLS Confidential.

Revolution fans have forever wondered how Gillette Stadium impacts the team’s ability to acquire game-changing players. A link may exist after all.