- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

D.C. United is going to the wrong place to seek its first road victory of the season and an end to its season-high three-game losing streak.
The worst surface in Major League Soccer awaits United tonight when it takes on the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Fire (7-7-2) at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, Ill.
With Soldier Field undergoing renovation, the Fire have been forced to play this season on turf at North Central College. The Fire are the only team in MLS to play on a synthetic surface and have just a 2-3-2 record at home.
"I know Chicago doesn't like it, and it's not a pitch for soccer at all," United coach Ray Hudson said. "We can't use it as an excuse, but it's an awful thing to play on. Cows don't eat that stuff, that's for sure."
In preparation for the game, last-place United (6-9-1) trained for two days this week on George Washington University's turf field. United needs to get familiar with the turf because it plays at Chicago again July 31.
"I haven't seen it on TV, but I hear it looks pretty bad on TV, with all the football lines, and it's small," said United midfielder Richie Williams of the 69-by-110-yard field. "Hopefully, the Fire can get out of there as quickly as they got in."
That can't be quickly enough. In an afternoon game against the Colorado Rapids on July 7, the temperature on the turf reached 157 degrees. All the Rapids players developed severe blisters on their feet and missed three days of practice. They also had to be treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Rapids midfielder Wes Hart became nauseous at the airport the day after the game and had to be closely observed on the flight home.
"It was like walking on hot coals," said Rapids defender Robin Fraser. "In warm-ups, I ran back and forth across the field once and my feet were burning."
Said Rapids midfielder Chris Henderson: "Nothing against the league, but having a field like that is not good for professional soccer."
Luckily for United, this match is a night game. But that does not take away the risk of injury on a surface that does not give like grass.
Some of United's key players are not 100 percent, and playing on turf could further worsen their conditions. Hudson said he probably will not play star forward Jaime Moreno the full 90 minutes. Moreno is nursing a strained left quad and is still not fully recovered from offseason knee surgery.
The same may hold true for playmaker Marco Etcheverry, who pulled his left groin last week in training and is not fully fit. He will start, but how long he plays remains to be seen. Defender Eddie Pope (knee tendinitis) and forward Santino Quaranta (groin) have been scratched.
Brandon Prideaux, United's central defender, is one of the few players on the club that has experience playing on turf. In 1998, Prideaux played for the A-League's Seattle Sounders on Seattle Memorial Stadium's artificial turf.
"I grew up playing on this stuff," Prideaux said. "It can be a little bouncy. Your feet get hotter being closer to the turf. I'm going to choose my footwear wisely. I'm going to wear a different shoe because it has more padding and more cushion."

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