Tuesday, March 26, 2013

U.S. versus Mexico won’t be weather repeat of Costa Rica match, that’s for sure

The flags won't be intertwined on Tuesday
By now, even if you could care less about soccer or international athletics, you probably have stumbled across a few seconds worth of footage of the match played last week between the national soccer clubs of the United States and Costa Rica.

Team U.S.A. managed to score a goal early in the first half, and that wound up being the extent of the scoreboard activity from the pitch. The United States defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in a match that helps to determine which teams from North America and the Caribbean qualify for the World Cup, and how highly they are seeded.

YET THE REASON you saw this video had nothing to do with the athletic activity. It was the snowfall. The pitch was a slippery, sloppy mess!

All throughout the match, groundscrews had to work to keep the field (or at least the lines marking exactly where the pitch was located) clear. It was so bad that the Costa Rica team is making appeals to the bodies that govern international soccer – claiming that the field was in no condition for a match to be played.

They want a re-do – which likely ain’t gonna happen. There are many times when one in athletics has to play under less than ideal conditions. How you handle those conditions are a large part of what determines your sporting character.

I bring all this up because there’s another match scheduled for Tuesday – when the United States has to take on arch-rival Mexico. This match also will have a large say in determining who goes to the World Cup tourney to be played next year in Brazil.

I’M SURE IF it were at all possible, this match would be at the stadium in Columbus, Ohio – which is getting buried under all those inches of snow being dumped across a large swath of the nation by Winter Storm Virgil. That snow likely will be done by Tuesday, but the temperatures are barely expected to be above freezing.

In short, it would be a sloppy mess that I’m sure U.S. officials would love to think would give them a similar advantage.

Yet Tuesday’s match will be at the Estadio Azteca – where the temperatures are expected to reach a daytime high of 74 degrees on Tuesday (if you trust the Weather Channel) with no chance of precipitation.

So we’re talking about the usual Mexico City advantage – not only the potential for 100,000 crazed fans crammed into the stands, but the light air of the high altitude combined with Mexico City-style pollution.

THERE’S A REASON Mexico teams usually win when they play at home. It takes everybody else some time to get used to conditions – more time than they usually spend in the city to prepare.

There’s also the fact that while the United States defeated Costa Rica, Mexico last week could not beat Honduras. They blew a 2-0 lead early in the match, winding up playing to a 2-2 tie. Which doesn’t hurt their qualifying chances as much as a loss would have – but certainly makes their desire for a victory on Tuesday all the more stronger!

And for those of you with rooting interests for the United States (the ones who paint their faces with red and white stripes and try to shout down everybody else with a “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” chant to see if they can look more absurd than the Mexico fans painted all red and green), there will be a sense of equal play, since the matches that determine World Cup qualification and placement run through October.

Meaning come Sept. 10, you’ll get to see El Tri play in Columbus on U.S. terms. Let’s just hope we don’t get an early snowstorm for next winter season to go along with the late one that made a mess of U.S. versus Costa Rica!

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