Halloween might have cost Sounders FC a few fans Sunday night.
However, those dressed as ghosts and goblins and Gumbys in the Qwest Field crowd of 35,521 made an impression on a man who has played all around the world.
“For the MLS, it’s like playing in front of a European crowd,” Los Angeles midfielder David Beckham said. “The noise, the atmosphere, the excitement: It’s always great to play in front of a crowd like that.”
The crowd was actually a bit down from the 36,173 the Sounders averaged during the regular season, and from the 37,807 they drew in their home playoff game in 2009.
However, Sounders officials said ESPN2’s desire to feature MLS’ best-attended venue in its prime-time Sunday time slot undoubtedly cost the club some fans who had other Halloween plans.
Even at that, the crowd was the second-largest for an MLS quarterfinal – trailing only Houston’s appearance in Seattle last season. It also was the league’s ninth-largest postseason crowd.
Yet, despite all the monsters in the crowd, it was the Qwest Field pitch that sent shivers down the spine of Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena.
“This field wasn’t easy to play on for either team,” he said. “ I guess they watered it down before the game so it was slick. When it’s this cool, it’s going to stay wet and fast the whole time. Once we got here we could see that the field was playing faster than it did (Saturday) when we were training in the pouring rain. This kind of played like the MLS final last year – a real slick surface, and the field is a little bit hard. It’s a tough field to play on.”
Edson Buddle, who scored the goal in his team’s 1-0 win, agreed.
“I don’t like turf at all,” he said. “I’ve always said that. I’m sure the players here would prefer grass.”
Most Sounders say they prefer grass. But midfielder Steve Zakuani didn’t think the pitch was unusually difficult Sunday.
“We’re used to it all the time because we play here all the time and we train here,” he said. “I didn’t think it was any different to how it’s been. I just feel that maybe the game next week will be a better game: on grass and the big field at Home Depot.”
Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said the current turf is likely to be used again next season.
Seattle defender Jeff Parke suffered an ankle sprain and was replaced in the 65th minute by Tyrone Marshall. Coach Sigi Schmid said he doesn’t yet know Parke’s status for next Sunday. Seattle has never scored in the MLS playoffs – a scoreless streak of 300 minutes. The Sounders are off today. They will return to drills Tuesday.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer