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Canadian Olympians react to tiny Frontier Field pitch

 (Photo: Canada Soccer)

(Photo: Canada Soccer)

VANCOUVER, B.C – The NWSL made a lot of headlines over the weekend, but it was not for a highlight reel goal or a fantastic save by a keeper. Seattle Reign FC visited Western New York Flash on Saturday night at Frontier Field, in Rochester, New York. The pitch that was used to play the match generated a buzz of negative attention for the NWSL.

The field was narrow, small, and a vastly unsuitable playing surface for the players. The fact that the NWSL approved 58 yards wide and 100 yards long surface is insulting to fans that pay money to go watch both teams players, and the players/coaches that work hard to perform and stay in peak playing condition each and every week. It’s a major step in the wrong direction and shows that the NWSL still has a lot of work to do even after three successful seasons in the books.

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NWSL rules and regulations say that the field must be 70 yards wide and 100 yards long. The usual home field that Western New York uses was occupied by a ‘Summerfest’ concert featuring TLC. No other venue was selected for the NWSL match and the game was not postponed. NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush released this statement late Saturday:

“Earlier this evening, the Western New York Flash hosted a home match at a different venue due to Rhinos Stadium not being available. The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision. As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans. In the future, we will ensure that every NWSL match meets our standards.”

Seattle Reign FC Coach Laura Harvey was none too pleased and provided a statement of what transpired in her opinion.

While both teams have now been asked to refrain from making comments. The Equalizer was able to catch up with four Canadian national team players to see what they have to say about the Rochester pitch debacle.

Western New York Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo took a moment to pause before expressing her thoughts. D’Angelo did not want to put herself in a compromising situation as she will be returning to play for the Flash following the Rio Olympics games.

“Obviously I wasn’t there so I can’t have a total opinion. It’s not something you want to see and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”

Christine Sinclair isn’t a player with a strong presence on social media, but she took to twitter to offer her displeasure.

Sinclair, the NWSL Player of the Month for June, spoke briefly about the situation.

“Obviously I didn’t see the game live or anything like that, but just the pictures and things that I saw, I thought it was really unacceptable,” the Thorns striker said. “For a league that’s trying to grow, develop, and improve itself in the world’s game, I thought it was a little bit of a step backwards.”

Canadian right-back Rhian Wilkinson does not currently play for an NWSL club, but has previously played for the Boston Breakers and Portland Thorns FC. Wilkinson did not hold back with her analysis on the pitch problems in Rochester.

“I saw a picture of it,” said Wilkinson. “I didn’t watch it live. It was ridiculous, everyone knows it is. I think everyone has heard the statement put out. The fact that it was given the okay, is detrimental to the league and the standard thus far that has been sent for women’s soccer in the states. If they call themselves the premier league in the world, then there has to be some standards and obviously I think everyone knows that wasn’t right. It was sub par on their part and in the future they’ve got to raise their game.”

This should not be happening in a league that wants to be the top women’s soccer league. Instead, the NWSL looks like a lower level league, perhaps even a Mickey Mouse league. Wilkinson disagreed with the Disney comparison, but some might not.

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“I think a big mistake was made. I think that game needs to be postponed or they need to find a field. I cannot believe that there was not another soccer field in that area. It’s not a Mickey Mouse league, it is one of the top leagues in the world and I believe that. A mistake was made allowing that game to go ahead though.”

Desiree Scott admits that this probably would not have occurred in a professional men’s league. We’ve heard that notion before when the turf debate was on the burner before 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The NWSL clearly took a shortcut and they got exposed for doing so. The FC Kansas City midfielder weighs in on the Rochester field faux pas.

“I think they’ll learn from that mistake,” said Scott. “I just saw the pictures through social media, we had training. I heard about the small pitch that they played on. It was a little bit laughable. I think they’ll learn that we’re professional players as well and we deserve a proper pitch. That would not happen in the men’s games so I hope they learn from that and it won’t happen again, I’m sure.”

The NWSL always provides excitement each and every week. Orlando Pride showed that with a late home comeback win against the Boston Breakers. Unfortunately for the NWSL, nobody is really talking about the action on the pitch, it’s the pitch itself that’s caused a lot of bad publicity for the league. All that can be done now is to move forward and hope this never occurs again.

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