“Everyone wants to avoid Manaus.”
Those were the words of Jurgen Klinsmann prior to last December’s World Cup draw. And now, three months after having been selected to play their second Group Stage game – a June 22nd contest against Portugal – in that precise venue, the U.S. coach’s words continue to reverberate.
Thursday reports from The Guardian detail the Amazonian venue in a state of disarray ahead of this summer’s tournament. To prepare the field massive amounts of fertilizer was laid to promote growth in the notoriously steamy region where average highs approach 90 degrees with humidity levels at 80 percent. The move proved excessive and backfired leaving large portions of the surface dried out and two sections of the penalty areas nearly devoid of grass.
The Amazônia Arena now faces a race against time to be ready for the opening match between England and Italy on June 14th. Jerocilio Silva, the state official for the stadium, has recalled the São Paolo-based grass company to restore the damaged areas of the pitch and “green crystal chemicals” are now being used to alleviate the problem.
How, exactly, the “green crystal chemicals” are any different from the previous fertilizer that allegedly triggered the problem is unclear. But Silva appears convinced that he has figured out how to deal with the acidic, sandy local soil claiming that this is “the treatment for it to blossom again.”
For the U.S. Men’s National Team, poor field conditions is just one of a number of things Klinsmann has prepared his side to expect in Brazil. During the USMNT’s training in São Paulo last January, Klinsmann visited Manaus and noted that while it’s “absolutely gorgeous” it’s also “a different face of Brazil.”
“‘Listen guys, it’s not going to be all perfect,'” he told his players. “‘We have to be very tolerant and we have to be patient with things. But if we know that in advance you adjust to it right away mentally, it’s no big deal. It’s no problem at all.'”
In addition to England v. Italy and the United States v. Portugal, Manaus will host two other Group Stage matches: Cameroon v. Croatia on June 18th and Honduras v. Switzerland on June 25th.
Borussia Dortmund substitute and USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic subbed into Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match versus Real Madrid and made a difference.
Given 17 minutes to work, Pulisic needed about 10. The 18-year-old American sent in a cross that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t volley but fell to another BVB player.
[ MORE: Big Sam canned ]
That was Andre Schurrle, and the ex-Wolfsburg and Chelsea man lashed a shot behind Navas to make it 2-2 at the Westfalenstadion.
Pulisic does well here, real well, and had a chance to make it 2-2 himself that was smothered by Navas.
A 67-day reign as a national team blown up by allegations of corruption? We’ve seen similar situations in world soccer, but certainly not at a high-profile, traditional headline-grabber like the England national team.
[ MORE: Big Sam canned ]
English legend Alan Shearer called the Three Lions a “laughing stock”, adding that, “I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m staggered at the misjudgement from a guy who admitted this was his dream job.”
The UEFA Champions League’s group stage hits its second round of matches Tuesday, with two Premier League teams in play and a bevy of big names from outside England.
[ MORE: Dempsey out for 2016 ]
Leicester City 1-0 Porto
The chemistry between Algeria and now Leicester City teammates Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani is very real.
The former fed the latter for an opening goal on Tuesday in UEFA Champions League play at King Power Stadium, as the Foxes have opened up a 1-0 lead on Porto.
You can imagine the visitors aren’t too pleased with having to meet up with Slimani, who they just managed to see out of their league only to watch him arrive in their UCL group.
And how about the mad dabbing kid shown just after Slimani’s celebration? Wild nights in Leicester.
CSKA Moscow 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs are controlling the play, but have yet to find a goal in Russia.
Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic have the goals for The Old Lady.
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo got on the scoresheet, though the hosts have been by far the more dangerous side. USMNT teenager Christian Pulisic is on the bench for BVB.
Thomas Tuchel’s side threatened to score through a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rocketed a shot just over the frame, and the Gabonese man made it 1-1 soon after when Keylor Navas punched Raphael Guerriero’s free kick off Raphael Varane. Aubameyang touched it over the line for an academic marker.
Here’s Ronaldo’s goal:
Sevilla 0-0 Lyon
Monaco 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Copenhagen 0-0 Club Brugge
Sporting CP 2-0 Legia Warsaw
The Seattle Sounders may yet make a playoff appearance, but it will be without Clint Dempsey.
The USMNT star recently returned to training with the team after dealing with an irregular heartbeat.
[ MORE: Big Sam canned ]
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerway made the announcement on Tuesday.
“If we prioritize this now, hopefully we can get Dempsey back in 2017.”
That does not seem to bode well for his participation with the United States men’s national team, which has October friendlies with Cuba and New Zealand before the first two matches of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in November.
Fortunately for the Sounders, both Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro have their upped their games in his absence, and Andreas Ivanschitz has been decent as well.
Seattle is five points back of fifth place Sporting KC, and three back of sixth place Portland. The Sounders have played two less matches than both sides.