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Rio Tinto Stadium field struggling to take shape

SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Because of the cold weather and extra wear and team, the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium has not exactly been in premium shape.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Real Salt Lake fans have probably noticed that the usually beautiful field at Rio Tinto Stadium has not been in the greatest shape this season.

The players sure have.

"It's a nightmare," said captain Kyle Beckerman. "It's an absolute nightmare. I hate to say it because our field is usually perfect and it's usually the best in the league. But something is going on right now and it's a shame."

RSL is basically a victim of its own success. Because they played all the way into December last year, team officials decided to plow the field after it snowed so RSL could train on it. In the process, a lot of grass was dug up and because of the cold weather, it hasn't come back yet. 

"It's struggling," general manager Garth Lagerwey said about the field. "We made the decision as we went deep in the playoffs to plow the field to allow our guys to train here. That was the right short term decision. We obviously made the [MLS Cup] Final, and it helped us get there. But you rip up some of the grass when you do that, and to state the obvious, in December grass is not growing on its own."

Once temperatures warm up, especially at night, the grass will start to grow again. Groundskeepers are constantly working on the field, but it's made for some not so smooth sailing on the pitch so far this season.

"It makes the ball do some things that you don't expect," said Beckerman. "It catches you at the last minute. You got to think a little bit extra on things that are usually second nature. But we'll get on with it."

"It's bouncing a little bit here and there, and it's not as smooth as it usually is," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "We know that when the field is in great condition, it's one of the best fields in the league. So, hopefully it gets there at some point soon. It's something that we can't necessarily control, but at the same time, we also understand that both teams have to play on it, so it's not an advantage either way. It may cause more turnovers by both teams, but it's the reactions to those turnovers that's going to lead to something."

When Rio Tinto Stadium opened, management made a commitment to make it a stadium for the entire community. So while high school football, soccer and college rugby games are great for the local teams, they also put extra strain on the field.

"Our players have expected a great field and the field is not great right now," Lagerwey said. "I think it's important to acknowledge that and say that the field will get better. It's a longer term process and I think it's going to take a couple months to get back. But our players aren't wrong. It's OK to state facts, and the fact is the field's not great. But by training on it, hopefully they're used to it, and so far we've had pretty good results at home."

RSL next hosts Vancouver Saturday night before hitting the road for two weeks. So when the team returns to Rio Tinto Stadium on May 17th, if the weather warms up, the field should be in better shape.

"I'm sure they're working their tail off to try to get it better," Beckerman said. "Hopefully it will be at its top form soon."
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