A few weeks back, Michael Parkhurst of Columbus Crew SC talked about his small beginnings and being from Rhode Island. As positive as those discussions were, he did have one thing to say that New England Revolution fans may not appreciate: he refused to come back to Foxboro because he did not want to play on turf.
The 31-year-old Cranston, RI native remembers his time playing for former coaches Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner fondly, but could not envision spending the latter portion of his career on Gillette's artificial surface.
So when Parkhurst was in discussions with MLS about coming back to the league from Europe, he made it clear that grass was a priority.
"I really at that point in my career did not want to play on turf," he said. "I think that my body doesn’t react well on turf anymore. Even now, I struggle to play a game on turf and turn around and play a few days later. That was a big factor in me hoping I could get out of New England and go somewhere else. I loved my time there, but I felt it was time to experience something new, live somewhere else, and get more experience somewhere else."
This flies directly in the face of the front office's usual assertion that no player has ever turned them down due to Gillette or Foxboro. It's possible that the Revs did not want to sign him anyway, but remember that Columbus had to send the Revs allocation money and the fourth pick in the 2014 SuperDraft for his rights. Technically, then, this might still be true; if the Revs never officially asked him to come back, then they were never turned down, and they can go about their business of telling everyone that the turf at Gillette isn't an issue.
Really, though, is there any difference between asking and being refused, and being told not to ask at all in the first place?
Hearing sentiments like that from one of New England's most beloved players of the last decade surely makes Revs fans deflated, but it more importantly speaks to a pressing issue that can't be ignored. The turf at Gillette Stadium is a problem for players.
Going back a couple of years, former Rev Saer Sene also tore his ACL when playing at Gillette Stadium. Marko Perovic saw his 2011 season cut short when an injury suffered at Gillette exacerbated pre-existing knee conditions. Danny Koevermans, a former Toronto FC Designated Player, is yet another player who had his ACL blown out while playing at Gillette Stadium.
The list goes on with knee injuries, but when coupled with Parkhurst's comments, it becomes clear that players are wary of playing in New England because of the surface. While not a groundbreaking revelation, the reality of the situation is Gillette's turf actively worries players.
How much did the Revs know about Parkhurst's aversion to playing on turf? How much may that have influenced their decision to trade his rights? Perhaps it was the defining factor; perhaps the Crew's offer was so good it didn't matter anyway. Either way, a player has gone on record that he would not play for New England because of the turf.
The Revolution offered no comment when contacted for this story.