SOUTH BEND - In Friday’s preseason friendly between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund, it was clear that both teams were troubled by the condition of the field in Notre Dame Stadium.
The ball looked slow rolling around the field, and players were kicking up sod and losing control of their dribbles.
In 2014, permanent synthetic turf was installed in Notre Dame Stadium for its storied football play. But in the last two weeks, that turf was covered by a layer of natural grass.
On Thursday, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp dismissed any concern over the condition of the temporary grass in the stadium, even after a morning of steady rain.
“It will be fine,” Klopp said. “The grass looks at least good, but usually you play a different game in there, I think.”
Klopp added that even despite efforts to provide a natural grass field, it wouldn’t match the same type of grass the players are used to in their European stadiums. He said both teams would have to deal with the conditions the same.
In Klopp’s post-match press conference Friday night, following Liverpool’s 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund, he kept it short when asked about the condition of the field.
“It was difficult, because it’s not a soccer pitch,” Klopp said. “They put grass on it, everybody tries their best, but in the end these two teams can play much better football.”
Klopp said many U.S. football and baseball stadiums match the size of soccer stadiums in Europe, but MLS stadiums, for example, are not at the same capacity.
“We have 50, 60, 70,000-person stadiums purely for European football, and that changes the game completely,” Klopp said. “I’m not sure how many teams here play on Astroturf, but that’s not how international football is.”
But the Liverpool manager was positive when discussing the potential for soccer — called “football” there, of course — in America.
“Women’s football dominates pretty much the world, and men’s football is coming up. The women’s football team shows that the potential in America is so big. The talents are coming and, of course, the understanding of the game will grow.”
These preseason games are necessary to grow the sport, Klopp said, despite the differences in playing surface. “Each game we can play and use as a commercial for this wonderful game, we should play, but we just have to make sure we can do it on a little bit better surface.”
Klopp mentioned the team’s game against Manchester United last summer at Michigan Stadium, which had a similar playing surface.
“We won that game 4-0, so it’s not the explanation. But if people see a game for the first time and think that’s how soccer should look,” he said, shaking his head, “nope.”