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Arctic conditions setting in as extreme cold threatens to hamper USMNT-Honduras qualifier

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MINNEAPOLIS — When U.S. Soccer chose Minneapolis-St. Paul as the location for a February World Cup qualifier, it was a decision met with skepticism due to the potential for extreme weather that could go well beyond simply a cold environment.

Those concerns have become reality as Wednesday has arrived in Minnesota and the USMNT clash with Honduras is set to be played in conditions with temperatures that could fall below zero degrees.

The weather conditions at Allianz Field are expected to be at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, which could not only make things extremely difficult on the bodies of both American and Honduran players, it will also impact the hardness of the soccer ball, which in turn will make things like controlling and shooting the ball more difficult.

I mean, obviously, it’s going to be cold,” Weston McKennie said on Tuesday. “I think every sport team, maybe besides basketball and indoor sports, has probably played in a game like this. We don’t control the weather. So I think it’s something that we just adapt to and we play just like any other game and we try and to have the same result and win.

“Obviously, we’ll take the right gear and wear UnderArmours and all wear, you know, whatever we have to wear,” McKennie said. “But I think at the same time, we don’t want to focus too much on the weather. We want to just get out there and get the job done.”

Part of the rationale for playing the game in Minnesota was to complete a three-game run of matches in cold weather for the USMNT, which has been training in the cold since starting camp in Columbus, Ohio more than a ago. Its subsequent matches against El Salvador and then against Canada in Hamilton, Ontario were played in the coldest conditions the USMNT has ever played in, but Wednesday’s match will have temperatures anywhere from 20 to 30 degrees colder.

“This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents,” Gregg Berhalter said when the venues for these qualifiers were announced. “They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.”

The Americans will presumably have an advantage over Honduras in the cold weather not only because of having more players with experience playing in cold weather, but because Honduras is coming off back-to-back World Cup qualifying matches played in warm-weather environments, in a home loss to Canada and a loss in El Salvador.

That advantage could wind up being canceled out if the temperatures drop so low that both teams are adversely affected.

One thing the USMNT can look forward to on Wednesday is a playing surface that should be more normal than the rock-hard artificial turf the Americans experienced against Canada. Allianz Field has an underground heating system that should be able to keep the grass surface in good playing shape, which presumably benefits the Americans, who hold a skill advantage on Honduras.

The field should be fine, but it will still be up to the players to be able to handle the elements and deliver a crucial victory to bring the Americans one step closer to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

“I think we’re prepared and that’s why we’ve played in two cold places previously, before this game,” McKennie said. “So I think we’re kind of used to it now. I think we’ve adapted well, and I think we’ll be prepared.”

Comments

  1. Well, I guess we can be grateful that the USSF did not schedule this game in Anchorage!
    I’ve done 16 mile training runs in -10 °F and played many pickup soccer games in the teens. But, never in shorts and a tee shirt.
    I hope they sew some of those iron oxide hand warmers into their shorts and tops.
    I remember one marathon I ran at about 20°F in shorts. I started with socks on my hands with the idea of throwing them away after I got warm, change of plan the first 10 miles were mostly into a brisk headwind. I ended up stuffing the socks into my shorts to protect more important parts.

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  2. if you grew up near there like I did, most wouldnt think it is too cold, short game when you used to spend all day outside. I just don’t think this helps the US WIN the game, which they need to. The games get sloppy, obviously. Honduras wants it sloppy, obviously.

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  3. Even if it’s a win, this is stupid. If any player gets injured or frostbite it ain’t worth it. Any Temps into single digits and CONCACAF should not allow and game is rescheduled. The U.S. should be able to beat THIS Honduras team anywhere without this foolishness. If not, it’s 2018 all over again.

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  4. one aspect of it that i find stupid is you could pretty much predict beforehand x number muscle pulls. i pulled my hammy getting slide tackled in the first cold weather game after the adult league xmas break. what happened to adams is generally if not specifically predictable and depending on his recovery time — and hammies take months to go away — might interfere with our chances in the key march games.

    you will also probably get y number people sick. surely mr. spreadsheets has foreseen the breakage his location decision will cause. and compared it to our chances against relatively weak opponents in a normal warm weather choice, which was good.

    you get enough of the wrong people hurt or sick and we will be in serious trouble for the march finales. adams is already out. the carnage is not just on the other side.

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    • I think you are reading into things a little to much. USA picked these sites because they were close to Canada, and travel time was greatly reduced. If the Canada game had been In Vancouver, instead of Hamilton, the two home games this window would have been in places like Portland and Seattle. It going to be bitter cold tonight. Advantage USA, big time! The field is heated anyway.

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      • these are 20 year old kids mostly. when i was that age i would get off a plane for select or NCAA and want to play keepy-uppies in the baggage claim. i would fly international then walk miles around the city after leaving stuff in the hotel. you can’t read yourself into the situation. it’s kids. the impact on the actual roster is exaggerated.

  5. Shocking decision to play this game in Antarctica…some misguided attempt at home field advantage.

    Then, again, US Soccer is spearheaded by folks with an IQ of a squirrel.

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  6. If you are choosing a location for home field advantage based on frigid temperatures against HONDURAS instead of a location based on a great fan turnout and that type of home field advantage you are not only missing the point, you’re an idiot..
    This smells of a combination of stupidity and desperation

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  7. If we lose or tie this game, and anyone says that we should not have been expected to win on account of the conditions, or that we did well given the conditions, or that we dominated in a tough environment, or that these are games you need to grind out, or anything like that, or that Honduras is actually deceptively good, I’m going to absolutely lose it.

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    • Slow down turbo 🤣, but I hear you. There is no point to playing a game this cold. There is no advantage. Like others have said, the ball will be a brick. I know the field is heated, but at what point does it start to freeze when it’s that cold? The heating from below may not be enough to keep the top 2 inches from freezing unless they keep a thick tarp on it until shortly before warm-ups.

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  8. Ridiculous. Like the others, I see us gaining no advantage from this, and quite possibly the opposite since we are the more technical team. Surely goals are going to be harder to come by and we must score tonight! Also wondering if there is a point where the game would have to be postponed, and what then…

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  9. The decision was a sign that Canada was in our head a month before kickoff. The idea isn’t to set your opponent up to fail. The idea should be that of setting YOURSELF up to WIN.
    ——————-
    Story of the window: planning toward the opponent, ignoring if not hampering your own strengths, and straight foolish overthinking. Just like the first window. GGG has apparently ignored the lessons we (should have) learned when we unleashed a young squad to press and run.
    ——————-
    Berhalter won’t be fired, and he isn’t the cause all of the team’s issues. But he sucks at his job.

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    • The location of this game is classic tail wagging the dog type of decision making. Some ‘genius’ at ussf had this idea and was patted on the back by a bunch of other office workers who over analyze a simple decision. Lets not forget this extreme cold also increases the likelihood of muscle injury…not smart
      At home against an inferior opponent we should look for the most easily playable conditions possible. I still think we win this game, but am baffled by how dumb this looks on paper.

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  10. “presumably benefits?” we are set up to head in crosses from the flag. good luck doing that at 0F. have you trapped or headed a frozen ball? i think honduras will be miserable but i don’t think our pseudo-analytics department considered whether we could take any positive advantage. i think our positive advantage would be a nice, warm, flowing game where we could be ourselves. i think this likely shrinks the amount of goals and makes the game closer. i also think that locating games for advantage is a tad strained beyond the very best teams. you might make mexico or CR cold or fly far. you might make canada warm. you might consider mexico road fans. beyond that just put it someplace warm and kick butt.

    the concern about our players’ flight miles ignores they are like 20 year old kids. we’d hop off a cross country flight in NCAA days and be kicking a ball in baggage claim. puhhhhleaze. this is not a team of mike bradleys.

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