In the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches, things are becoming heated for the U.S. men’s soccer team and not just for its precarious position in the standings.
It might be the weather that is far hotter. On Monday morning, during a team training session it was 91 degrees and 67% humidity at Estadio Olimpico. According to heat indexes it felt 107 degrees, which for Honduras is normal.
On Tuesday, the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, and the index is expected to increase prior to the matches’ kick off during the late afternoon. Everyone on the U.S. team and their coaches know weather will be a big part in the match that is crucial for both sides.
The heat could be the least of the overall challenges facing the team. The pitch, which is a mixture of grasses, is spongy and soft, so attempting to run will be like running on the beach and the expected rain will make in only worse.
The weather and conditions on the pitch cannot be changed, but what the U.S. team can change is its place in the standings for qualification, but needs all three points to accomplish that.
The team after losing last week to Costa Rica at home, is now on the hot seat and with a poor result Tuesday in Honduras, the heat will only get more extreme.
The upcoming three matches are all Bradley says he and his teammates are worried about. The U.S. is 2-3-2 in its 7 matches and leads Honduras also 2-3-2 in a battle for third place and the final automatic World Cup berth. The U.S. only leads the Central American team due to goal differential.
A win puts the team three points clear and enhances their chances of going through since Honduras must play Mexico, the first place team and Costa Rica the current second place team, while the U.S. will end the tournament against Trinidad and Tobago the team that is in last place.
A draw keeps the U.S. in front of Honduras, but it might drop them behind Panama as it plays Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday at home. The U.S. would control its destiny however since it does play Panama in its next to last match at home.
However, a loss would drop the U.S. three behind Honduras and likely behind Panama meaning they would have to win both remaining matches and receive help from Mexico or Costa Rica to directly qualify for their eighth consecutive World Cup.