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San Jose Earthquakes hope to put slippery conditions behind them with new hybrid field

Jesse Fioranelli explains why club opted for new technology.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For better or for worse, one of the unintended consequences of the San Jose Earthquakes moving to their stadium in San Jose several years back was the state of the field.

The natural grass at Earthquakes Stadium had always been slick, with opponents often wearing the wrong cleats and having to change partway through games even though the slickness was a consistent feature.

But in 2020, the slippery field seemed to reach a new level, with Earthquakes players slipping nearly as much as opposing players, divots coming up more easily than usual and, well, questions about whether the turf was hurting the quality of play.

So in the offseason, the Quakes acted, with the club replacing the all-natural grass with a SISGrass hybrid field.

San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelli explained the process of finding what they believe will be a good solution to the need for a new field on a recent call with reporters.

“We’re super excited about this,” Fioranelli said. “We had spent a solid year in evaluating different options for our stadium field. And so with this grass we found not only a reliable partner, but a company with a proven track record that works internationally, and has already expanded to North America, that will provide a premium playing surface for our players. For our fans, it’s a hybrid pitch. It has 95% bluegrass in this case and 5% polyethyrene woven in. I would consider it a new technology that has evolved over time, and that now is starting to become more commonplace and in Europe and also at big tournaments such as the World Cup, the upcoming one. And so we would like to be able to find the stress-resistant, training/playing surface that allows us to get a little bit more reliability out of our pitch. And I think we do have that now.”

The durability of natural fields differ considerably around the league. Some teams budget to replace their turfs annually, while others will go up to five years without installing a whole new field. Fioranelli referenced the stress-resistant qualities of the hybrid field, presumably hoping to extend the life of the field while also being more functional.

“Also not only for game opportunities but also for training opportunities, if need be,” he explained. “And that’s beneficial. The grass itself, the surface is certainly much more stress resistant, they were looking at being able to stress the grass, two to three times more than an actual field surface and that was one of the main reasons why we opted for this solution.”

The Quakes will used their upcoming preseason games, Friday against Sacramento Republic and Apr. 9 against Oakland Roots, to get their first game action on the new field, to break it in and get the Quakes players used to the new surface.

We don’t spend a ton of time talking about fields, but in this line of work, usually if you’re not talking about it, it’s getting the job done. The Earthquakes hope the field won’t be the center of attention again — unless it’s for being a model of consistency.

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