Toronto FC head groundskeeper Robert Heggie says Sunday’s Grey Cup should not leave any kind of hangover for Toronto FC when it comes to the BMO Field playing surface for the midweek MLS playoff showdown with Montreal.
"I’d say your average person, if they were to walk in here and look at the field, they wouldn’t suspect a football game was in here (Sunday) night — already," Heggie said confidently Monday afternoon.
Toronto, which trails 3-2 on aggregate, hosts the Montreal Impact on Wednesday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final. The winner will face the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 10.
Because it had the most regular-season points of the three teams left, Toronto will host the championship game if it advances. Montreal would play at Seattle if it moves on.
Football lines have already been removed from BMO Field. The goalposts are also gone. Heggie and his crew are repairing where needed, fertilizing and readying the grass.
Heggie says the playing surface was "perfect" for the Grey Cup. And it looked pretty good afterwards despite the fact the contest went into overtime.
The BMO Field grounds crew tweeted dryly " yeahwearestillhere" after the CFL championship.
Heggie said there was one area that took some damage where the football players were doing some running drills, but that was outside of the soccer touchline.
"But actually on the pitch, I’d say it’s pretty good," he said. "It’s no worse or better than TFC’s seen this year. They’ve seen better pitches this year but they haven’t seen worse. I think they’re sitting in a good place. I think it’s going to play fantastic, I think the footing will be fine, everyone will be safe, no one will get hurt and it will be up to TFC to bring home the W."
And if BMO Field hosts the MLS Cup, Heggie says the pitch will be even better given the extra time to prepare with grow lights and cover working their magic.
Prior to the Grey Cup, the field had not been used for CFL football since Oct. 15. The soccer team has played three times at home since then but not since the Oct. 30 playoff game against New York City FC.
Heggie spent that time trying to get the pitch in the best shape possible for the Grey Cup.
"Because the healthier and fuller it is going into the football game, the better it is going to be coming out of the football game."
That’s important because Heggie acknowledges there is not much time for the grass to recover, especially in November.
"You’re just doing the best with what you’re left with after the football game."
And that’s pretty good. "I think so," said Heggie.
Still Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said he watched some of the Grey Cup and "was cringing at some of the chunks (of grass) that were coming (up)."
"But I trust our guys. They a have a good sense of things and they’re already on top of it."
While the Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders did not practise at BMO Field other than a short walkthrough Saturday, Heggie says the field had to contend with halftime show rehearsals and other things.
"But considering how much of an event it was and how many people were out there and everything that went into it, I think we’re sitting in a very good place — especially for (a game) Nov. 30."
The grass was left a little longer for the Grey Cup, to protect it. It will be cut down for the soccer game.
Whatever happens, the BMO Field surface will be better than the artificial turf used for Game 1 at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
"Everybody has seen what the playing conditions were in Montreal," an unimpressed star striker Sebastian Giovinco said Monday through an interpreter. "It’s not up to me to judge. It was apparent to the world.
"Obviously if the game is to grow (in North America) and the show has to grow, that’s the responsibility of the league to make sure that the conditions for that to happen are in place."
Vanney previously called the playing conditions in Montreal dangerous.
While Heggie and his crew worked at BMO Field, the team trained outdoors at its north Toronto training centre. Defender Eriq Zavaleta sat out practice to rest a sore foot, according to Vanney.
The team practised with Will Johnson in the midfield, prompting Jonathan Osorio and Armando Cooper to share playing time. Johnson, who added some stability and bite in the midfield when he came on in the 57th minute in Montreal, could see action from the get-go Wednesday.
Vanney said his team was focused exclusively on Montreal, with no one making mention of the Seattle win in the West.
While rain is forecast for Wednesday, the chance of precipitation drops around kickoff when temperatures are expected to be around 10 degrees.