MNT Ready to Face Down Heat, Humidity in High Stakes Match vs. Honduras

BRADLEY: “It’s going to be a grind in every sense of the word."

The U.S. Men’s National Team trained at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula on Monday in its final session before taking on Honduras in a crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday.

As players stepped off the bus and walked onto the track that surrounds the field, the 90-degree heat and heavy humidity of the late morning induced a sweat even before stepping on the field. Once there, they were met by unkempt grass growing longer than normal and a softer, spongey surface. 

These are just a few of the elements the MNT has grown used to through the years in qualifying out of CONCACAF, and Tuesday’s six-pointer against Los Catrachos (5:30 pm. ET; beIN Sports, UNIVERSO) will be no different. 

“It’s going to be a grind in every sense of the word,” Michael Bradley said with sweat dripping from his brow before training Monday. “These are the days that are hard to explain to people who aren’t here. We understand that, we have no problem with that – this is our reality, we’re going to use today and tomorrow and make sure that come kickoff, we’re ready to deal with whatever the game and conditions are and be ready to go for it.”

In order to get a result, dealing with the conditions will be as important as any performance on the field. Luckily, 20 of 25 players on the roster head coach Bruce Arena brought down to Honduras have ample experience in the heat and humidity thanks to their current posts in Major League Soccer and Liga MX. 

“I think you need to have the experience and playing under these conditions, which I think a majority of our players surely have,” Arena said. “M.L.S. players play a lot of games in hot and humid conditions on artificial fields, traveling in worse conditions. This is not going to be anything new to our players. It’ll certainly be challenging, but I think we have enough experienced players to understand the circumstances.” 

After Friday’s disappointing 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica, understanding the circumstances of the team’s situation couldn’t be more important. With three matches remaining, the U.S. is locked in a three-way battle for CONCACAF’s third and final automatic qualifying place to Russia 2018. The USA is tied on eight points with Tuesday’s opponents Honduras, while Panama trails one behind with seven. As fate would have it, the U.S. welcomes Los Canaleros on Oct. 6 in Orlando before finishing the Final Round Oct. 10 in Trinidad & Tobago. 

Hex Third Place Contenders Remaining Schedule

Date

USA

Honduras

Panama

Sept. 5

at Honduras

vs. USA

vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Oct. 6

vs. Panama

at Costa Rica

at USA

Oct. 10

at Trinidad & Tobago

vs. Mexico

vs. Costa Rica

Still sitting in third, there are a variety of ways for the U.S. to claim that third spot, but the simplest is to take points off its closest rivals in the standings, and if needed clean up on the final day Port of Spain.

“It’s about the next three games,” Bradley said. “It’s so clear and all right there for us: three games, a little three-team tournament to see who is going to go to the World Cup directly, who is going to go to the playoff and who is going to be out.”

And while there’s plenty of pressure, just like the away qualifying conditions the U.S. has become accustomed to, Bradley indicated the team has felt the same moments in previously successful qualifying campaigns.

“The idea of big games, the idea of everything on the line, that can’t phase us. In every World Cup Qualifying cycle I’ve been a part of, even the ones looking back that appear to have gone a little bit differently than the others, you play games where everything is on the line. You play games where your backs are against the wall and you have to get a result, and that’s what the next three games are.”