TAMPA, Fla. – I just got back from Raymond James Stadium and the field there in four words:
A big ol’ mess.
There are two ways to look at this:
- The sensationalized view (a.k.a., how they’d write about this in England)
The field really is squishy-level. That is, there’s water standing on certain parts of the field, and it’s pretty much soaked all over – which is why both teams were forced to relocate their day-before practices. The United States moved over to the University of South Florida.
I took the picture you see after one particularly fierce dog-soaker of a downpour. The field will drain, I’m sure, and may even be substantially more playable now, about two hours later. The problem is that more of the same is forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so there’s every possibility that it will look exactly the same at Friday’s kickoff (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
That’s not good for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co.
It’s like this: Antigua and Barbuda is clearly overmatched here. That doesn’t make it a fait accompli; the United States could still lose or draw. It’s just that it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances, a wildly uncommon alignment of universal elements, for the night to end with any outcome beyond U.S. victory. (And probably a lopsided victory, at that.)
But listed under “extraordinary circumstance” is a field that plays more like an Everglades swamp. That’s when some goofy result, some theater of the unimaginable, inches a little closer to fruition.
- The non-sensationalized, come-down-off-the-ledge view
It won’t matter.
Klinsmann’s assembly of talent is so far and above the collection from Antigua and Barbuda, where most of the players compete in the U.S. Soccer structure’s third tier – and aren’t even doing particularly well there.
Honestly, a couple of gators could float out onto the field as torrential downpours pelted the pitifully drenched 22 – and the United States should still be able to bank their three points from the night.