Fabian Johnson: “It just helps us to close the gap where we are now and where we have to be Thursday. I think we’re on a pretty good way.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — If the United States is successful at its next two World Cup qualifiers, it won’t just be because of the team’s attitude but also due to the fact the side trained at altitude.
For the past 12 days, the Americans have training in the Rocky Mountains, first at Park City, Utah before playing in Sandy, Utah in a 1-1 tie with Venezuela Saturday.
They then will take on Trinidad & Tobago at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Thursday night in a match that will be played at 5,164 feet above sea level.
On Sunday, the Americans will take on Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which is at 7,380 feet. The Americans traditionally have struggled when playing in the Mexican capital.
“The altitude issue is a big issue,” U.S. head coach Bruce Arena said. “The longer you’re in altitude, the more you’re affected by it. If you come in for one or two days, you can get through it because your body still hasn’t understood it fully.
“Now our bodies understand it, and we’re playing through that a little bit. Hopefully, by Thursday, we will be a little bit more adjusted and more prepared, physically, in Mexico City.”
Defender-midfielder Fabian Johnson, who flew in from Germany to join the team, said the transition from sea level to a mile high was difficult.
“It is hard to breath, to run,” he said. “That’s why we came here pretty early. It just helps us to close the gap where we are now and where we have to be Thursday. I think we’re on a pretty good way.”
But now the fourth-place side has gotten its act together as it tries to improve on its 1-2-1 record and four points against the sixth-place Soca Warriors (1-3-0, 3).
“We’re feeling better,” striker Clint Dempsey said. “Obviously, the more time you’re here the better you’re going to feel. We’re doing all the things you can to give yourself an advantage. I feel like we’ll be ready to go.”
We’ll find out how ready come Thursday night.