Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Yankee Stadium field that NYCFC calls home may be the closest approximation soccer has to a bumper-car track.
The field is listed as 110 yards long by 70 yards wide, which is the same dimensions as the Bobby Dodd Stadium field that Atlanta United calls home.
But the Yankee Stadium field isn't 110 x 70. It's not even close. The only on-the-record, independent measurement was done by Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes, who walked it off in 2015 and was quoted as saying it's 106 yards long by 68 yards wide. If that's true, it wouldn't meet the minimum requirements set by MLS. That may be why no media are allowed to walk on the field.
Either way, Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst said the field is the smallest in MLS and, as such, could affect how the Five Stripes, which so far have relied on speed, stretching teams with passes and counter-attacks for the majority of its goals, will play.
"Chances come a lot quicker," he said. "The balls in from the wing get in front of the goal really quick. Pretty soon after you pass the circle you are within shooting distance. It just changes it a little bit where you have to be more active, more aware."
The field is almost 550 square yards smaller than the next smallest, Portland's Providence Park. At its listed measurements, it ties D.C. United's home of RFK Stadium and Providence Park for the shortest, and ties Minnesota United's home of TCF Bank Stadium for the narrowest.
By comparison, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have a playing surface of 115 yards long by 75 yards wide.
Because the field at Yankee Stadium is significantly smaller, the players are closer together, which limits the room they have to move. It can take away long through balls for forwards to run onto because goalkeepers don't have to run as far to catch or parry those attempts.
Atlanta United likes to push its fullbacks up the flanks and into the attack. Because the field is so narrow, they may end up on top of the midfielders and forwards with little room to run off their shoulders and down the sidelines.
"It's a tough place to go," Atlanta United fullback Tyrone Mears said. "The dimensions of the pitch are very tight. We've got to be switched on. We will have to play a lot quicker because we will be closed down a lot faster."
When 22 men are on a field that small, there will be contact, which may be why, according to stats provided by Elias, the second-most number of yellow cards in MLS were issued in Yankee Stadium in 2015 (71, second to the Colorado Rapids' Dick's Sporting Goods Park's 72) and in 2016 (second to Providence Park). Providence Park also features a small field. Considering that Atlanta United players already have three red cards (one rescinded), that could be another factor in the game's outcome.
Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said the coaching staff learned of the Yankee Stadium field dimensions and practiced Thursday on a field the same size. He didn't say what those dimensions were.
"I've watched games there," he said. "It's really noticeable, the dimensions, that it's narrow. It could presents some challenges to the game."
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