Canceled USWNT friendly over poor turf amplifies U.S. Soccer's gender inequality

Eric Adelson
FC Yahoo

During a national celebration of their world domination, the United States women's national team got another harsh reminder of gender inequality within its sport.

And this time, FIFA has nothing to do with it.

U.S. Soccer canceled the World Cup winners' friendly against Trinidad and Tobago in Hawaii on Sunday, after Alex Morgan and head coach Jill Ellis railed against the state of the field at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.

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Morgan called the turf conditions "horrible" in an interview with Laura Vecsey of FOX Sports and expounded on her frustration.

"I think the team needs to be a little more vocal about whether this is good for our bodies and whether we should be playing on it if the men wouldn't be playing on it," Morgan said. "We've been told by U.S. Soccer that the field's condition and the size of the field are the first two talking points of when they decide on a field, so I'm not sure why eight or nine of our 10 Victory Tour games are on turf whereas the men haven't played on turf this year."

Goalkeeper Hope Solo tweeted a photo of a large rift in the turf, which exposed a clear risk to anyone running or cutting on it.

"We extend our sincere apologies to those fans who were scheduled to attend the U.S. Women's National Team match in Hawaii," U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said in a statement. "Player safety is our number one priority at all times and after a thorough inspection throughout the day, we determined it was in the best interest for both teams to not play the match. We regret not being able to play in front of our fantastic, loyal fans."

This comes after a World Cup played exclusively on turf, with players from all nations dealing with uncomfortable on-field conditions. The men's World Cup has never been played on anything other than grass.

That, however, was a FIFA issue. This is all on U.S. Soccer.

"This could never happen on the men's side," said SiriusXM analyst Glenn Crooks, who coached Carli Lloyd at Rutgers. "Why is this happening on the women's side? Some victory tour, huh?"

Star midfielder Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL on a practice field on Friday. That came on grass, but players felt that surface was also in poor condition.

Ellis complained to higher-ups, but it was Morgan who gave the strongest rebuke.

"I think it's hard because no one's really going to protect us but ourselves," Morgan told Vecsey. "So we're in a very hard position because obviously we want to play in front of these fans and we want to train before the game but injuries happen when you don't protect yourself and when you're not protected from those higher up from you."

Morgan herself is in an especially vulnerable position. She is coming off a knee injury that limited her in the early stages of last summer's World Cup, and is just recently returning to full health.

"The last two years have been really difficult," Morgan told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview this week. "I haven't been my full self."

None of the players can afford an injury with an Olympic year beginning next month. This Victory Tour is as much a preparation for the Rio Games as it is a toast to the World Cup title. And it's in U.S. Soccer's interest to protect its players especially in matters of health and safety.

An email to Buethe was not immediately returned, but he did not confirm to Vecsey that the Aloha Stadium turf was vetted before the match was scheduled. Former national team member Julie Foudy, now with ESPN, tweeted Sunday that she was told a venue is vetted "months in advance" for the men's side but no one from U.S. Soccer inspected this particular field.

"It amplifies the entire gender equity issue that's been discussed worldwide," Crooks said. "But here in our own country, there's still a lot of inequality."

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