U.S. players say field 'looked like it hadn't been replaced in years'
HONOLULU -- The U.S. women's soccer team abruptly canceled a victory tour exhibition game Sunday against Trinidad and Tobago because of poor field conditions at Aloha Stadium.
U.S. Soccer said in a statement less than 24 hours before the game that "the artificial turf surface is not suitable to hold an international soccer match." The game was part of a 10-city tour following the team's victory in the Women's World Cup this past summer.
The Aloha Stadium surface was tested during training Saturday, "and after all possible options available were considered to get the field in a playable condition, the decision was made by U.S. Soccer to cancel the match." All tickets will be refunded, U.S. Soccer said.
"There were sharp rocks ingrained all over the field. They were everywhere," the U.S. players said in a posting on The Players' Tribune. "The artificial turf was actually pulling up out of the ground, and the turf itself was both low-grade and aging. This was a playing surface that looked like it hadn't been replaced in years.
"There is a larger, more vital conversation about turf -- as it concerns women's soccer -- that continues to make progress. But turf is our reality right now; we play on it all the time. This decision wasn't about 'turf vs. grass.' This was about field conditions and player safety.
"It's as simple as that. Soccer is our job. Our bodies are our jobs. And nothing should ever be put in competition with our protection and safety as players."
Several of the players expressed their concerns via Twitter:
The move came two days after midfielder Megan Rapinoe tore a ligament in her right knee during training in Honolulu. The non-contact injury occurred on a grass training field.
"Megan's injury took place while playing on a subpar training field," the U.S. players said in the posting on The Players' Tribune. "The grass on the training pitch itself was in bad shape. All along the pitch, sewer plates and plastic coverings were laying on the sidelines."
The 30-year-old Rapinoe, who plays for the NWSL's Seattle Reign, will need surgery. She twice tore the ACL in her left knee twice during her college career at the University of Portland. A timeline for her return is not known.
A group of players, including Morgan and U.S. forward Abby Wambach, filed legal action last year in Canada over the artificial turf fields that were to be used in the World Cup. The players claimed that putting the women's tournament on what they considered an inferior surface amounted to gender discrimination, because the men's tournament has always been held on real grass.
The players later dropped the claim to focus on preparation for the World Cup, but their protest generated widespread support. Even Kobe Bryant and Tom Hanks were critical.
Rapinoe, who was among those who objected to the artificial turf in Canada, scored two goals in the 3-1 tournament-opening win against Australia on June 8 in Winnipeg. She has 113 appearances with the national team and 31 career goals for the Americans.
Although upset about the setback, she issued a statement asking fans for advice on good television shows to "binge watch" and restaurants in Seattle that deliver.
"I want to thank my teammates and the staff for the amazing support I've received so far," Rapinoe said. "I know I'll be in the best of hands moving forward and I'll be doing everything I can to get healthy as soon as possible. This is obviously a very difficult time, but I do feel super confident in my recovery as I've gone through this before and I know what the process will be like."
The next game of the team's victory tour -- also against Trinidad & Tobago -- is scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.