Antonee Robinson (l.) and Ricardo PepiPhoto: Getty Images
It’s been beaten into the ground and then shot repeatedly, but it’s hard to stress enough how different and weird this World Cup qualifying schedule is. Just the three-game windows, spread over just seven days, make for nearly impossible logistics.
So there are myriad reasons that U.S. Soccer has opted to play its two home qualifiers in this particular window in Columbus and St. Paul at the end of January. The big one is that the away game in the middle of it, in Canada, is in Hamilton, Ontario. Apparently that’s a real place. Anyway, both Ohio and Minnesota are short flights from there, meaning travel for a squad that has already mostly jetted over from Europe just yesterday or Sunday is at a minimum. That’s nothing to be sneezed at. Consider Canada’s travels the next week: Down to Honduras, back to Ontario to face the U.S., and then back to Central America to face El Salvador. This is the exact kind of thing the U.S. probably wanted to avoid, bouncing all over the country to stay warm with five or six hour flights.
They’ll also tell you that it’s prep for the conditions they’ll face in Hamilton (again, apparently a real place just south of Toronto). Staying in the north of the country will lessen the shock of what awaits north of the border, where the high on Sunday is going to be 24 and probably colder by the 3 p.m. local kickoff time. But this is where things get to be a stretch. A majority of the U.S. squad plays in Germany, or has played in Germany, and certainly plays all over Northern Europe. While 24 is definitely at the bottom of the range of temps one might see in Europe, it’s not like they’re dropping flamingos into the polar ice caps here. The players would be just about ready.
And the game in St. Paul, against Honduras, comes after the Canada excursion anyway. There’s nothing to “prepare” for. It’s basically only to freeze the Hondurans and to assure none of their fans show up. Which, considering the U.S. only needed a second half of competence to lace Honduras in Honduras in the earlier match 4-1, they really…