JACKSONVILLE, Fla — So, it’s been hot here in northern Florida. Really hot.
Nothing like Manaus, but it’s getting there.
With temperatures skimming 90 and above during training yesterday, it’s reached 87 today as fans pack the EverBank Field parking lot for the United States’ final send-off friendly against Nigeria.
Despite overnight rain and cloud cover plus a nice breeze cooling things off a from the expected 92 it would hit today, the humidity remains and training has been tough, but the players are happy about it.
It’s only going to get worse in Brazil, and they’re jumping at the opportunity to play in the Florida heat and stickiness before the real thing.
I asked Michael Bradley about the weather yesterday, and gave him the option of whether he believed it helped them to prepare for the beating sun of Brazil, or if it made them worry about the wear on their bodies before the real event. Without hesitation, he jumped on the former.
“It’s great preparation, we need it,” Bradley said on Friday. “Obviously we had a few weeks early on when we were in northern California – it was warm there given what it’s normally like this time of year, but now to get down to Florida – where there’s humidity that goes with the heat – it’s important. We know what it will be like in Brazil, we expect that, and to now have some trainings and a game playing in this heat and humidity is going to be important.”
Bradley wasn’t the only one to express his excitement at the opportunity to increase the team’s dexterity. Ok…maybe excitement isn’t the right word. Let’s try reluctant optimism.
“It’s very, very hot,” forward Aron Johannsson said yesterday with a chuckle. “It’s almost hard to breathe out there, but that’s like the weather’s going to be in Brazil, so hopefully we can get used to the weather here and then we get to Brazil and we’re ready.”
Johannsson hasn’t started either of the first two matches, even missing out against Turkey altogether. According to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, that’s because he’s struggling a bit with the workload.
“Right now he [Johannsson] is getting used to the workload prior to the World Cup, which is a lot on him,” Klinsmann said. “So he’s been here and there and he’s struggling a bit, so that’s why we kept him out of the Turkey game, because he needed to just breathe for a day.”
There are obvious disadvantages to playing in the heat during the run-up to the World Cup, preparation or not. With the weather sapping energy quickly, bodies can become prone to injury much faster than usual.
And with news flowing through at an alarming rate of major injuries affecting World Cup heavyweights, pre-tournament injuries are the last thing Klinsmann and the United States want to deal with.
But at least for now, the US is hoping to use the beating Florida sun as a positive and not a detriment. Only after 90 minutes of match play will we find out if it was worth the heat.