La Guerra Caliente: Score One for Mexico

Posted on February 8, 2009 9:15 am

The Mexican National soccer team arrived in Columbus yesterday.

It’s unusual for a coach to bring his players into a hostile city this far in front of a game, but Tri head coach Sven Goren Eriksson wants to give them as much time as possible to acclimate to the typically fierce Central Ohio February climate.

(In another effort to change their luck, he’s also changed the team’s usual accommodations; normally Mexico has bunked up in a hotel on the outskirts of town but this time he’s booked them right smack downtown. Just a reminder, people: Project Mayhem does not exist.)

Like everyone else – including the 250,000 people who now swear they were there – he knows all about the infamous La Guerra Fria on February 28, 2001 when El Tri were so intimidated by the bitter cold that they refused to go out for pregame warmups, and he’s determined to do everything he can to lessen the shock that hits them when they exit the lockerroom on Wednesday night.

It’s becoming increasingly clear though that he needn’t have bothered.

Back when the CONCACAF Quqalifying schedule was announced, the February 11 USA/Mexico match, to be held in a US venue, smacked the Tri in the face like an Alberta Clipper.

They knew, as did everyone else, that Sunil Gulati might make noises about this stadium or that city but that in the end he fully intended to put this game back at the site of La Guerra Fria, Columbus Crew Stadium. Indeed, most observers said he’d be crazy not to. Mexico would rather play the US in hell or at the bottom of the ocean than have a repeat of the nightmare from eight years ago.

But – perhaps surprisingly – Gulati offered Mexico a deal: he would schedule the game someplace else, someplace a little less intimidating temperaturewise and with maybe a bit more chance to seat some more Tri fans if Mexico would agree to move their leg of the series out of the Azteca and down a little closer to sea level.

We don’t know how long or how seriously Mexico’s federation debated the offer, but in the end they decided that nothing was worth giving up that Mexico City match and said no thanks.

So unless Mexico City somehow drops down a few thousand feet closer to sea level, you have to give round one to Mexico.

To cut to the chase here, the current forecast for Wednesday Feb 11 in Columbus calls for a high in the upper 50′s. They’re also calling for rain – a 70% chance – but I’ve been in Mexico a couple times and I do recall some precipitation, so presumably it won’t be much of a shock if the players have to line up in a downpour.

If the temperature does hit the predicted 58 (other forecasts have it as low as 54) it will officially be the warmest day in Central Ohio since mid November. And helpfully, the prediction is that the temps willbegin to plummet again on Thursday, as the Tri are watching Columbus International disappear out the windows.

So the Mexican team is working out today in balmy Columbus, wondering what all the fuss was about. The guys they brought in from Europe are probably happy to be so warm. There’s more snow this week in London.

So the question is: how much will any of this really matter?

And of course it’s impossible to say. But it’s clear that the US was hoping for much colder weather if for no other reason than the psychological value. It’s just not easy to go from typical mid-70′s temperatures in Mexico to playing in 20 degree weather with single digit wind chills.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m betting that Bob Bradley was hoping for something a little more Arctic.

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