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Jul 30, 2014

Questions remain about N.Y. pitch

NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium's makeshift soccer pitch drew mixed reviews in its summer showcase, an International Champions Cup game between Liverpool and Manchester City on Wednesday night, which the Reds won 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 full time draw.

New York City FC may have secured their league status and some famous players before their MLS debut in 2015 but questions remain about the new club's choice of playing regular soccer on a baseball field, especially as more and more teams seek to develop soccer-specific stadiums.

Yankee Stadium's narrow pitch is just 70 yards -- 64 meters -- wide. Though Premier League pitches vary to some degree, the field in the Bronx is smaller than any in the English top flight, where the standard is 68 meters.

The field of play also overlaps a large portion of the baseball infield, leading Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to make a few smart remarks about the Stadium grass.

"I thought three-quarters of it was excellent," Rodgers said when asked about the state of the pitch. "I thought there was a patch on the right-hand side, which I assume might be where the pitcher stands, but three-quarters of it was excellent."

Rodgers had few serious complaints about the pitch but the issues didn't go unnoticed.
Rodgers had few serious complaints about the pitch but the issues didn't go unnoticed.

The raised pitcher's mound is actually a few feet off to the side, but temporary sod was placed over a large swath of infield -- from the hole between third and short, past second base and halfway down the first-base line.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said the pitch wasn't perfect but got the job done.

"Maybe it was not the best fit to play football, but it was not so bad," Pellegrini said. "I don't feel it was any problem for the players. It's better to play with a pitch maybe in a better condition, more wet. Maybe it was a little bit dry, that's why the ball didn't run so fast. But I think there weren't many problems with most things."

Though the field could use some work, there's no doubt that there is a market for a second MLS team in the New York area if the draw of Premier League front-runners can be translated to the MLS newcomers in 2015. Attendance for Wednesday's friendly was announced at 49,653 -- more than the best-attended New York Yankees game this season by over 1,000 people.

Liverpool and Man City managed at Yankee Stadium but how will NYC FC fare in 2015?
Liverpool and Man City managed at Yankee Stadium but how will NYC FC fare in 2015?

Despite Man City's business ties with NYC FC and the Yankees, Liverpool fans dominated the stands, outnumbering their City counterparts in all but a few sections near their goal.

"Liverpool fans don't surprise me anymore," Rodgers said. "I've been at the club now over two years and it's just remarkable the support we get everywhere around the world.

"Obviously, this was sort of a home game for Manchester City, but it felt like one for Liverpool."

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