Walker Zimmerman (right), pictured celebrating his goal, said he didn’t “think they [Honduras] wanted any part of that tonight (Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Revenge, they say, is a dish served cold.
On Wednesday night, that dish might have been served frozen in a very large block of ice.
The U.S. men’s national team survived the coldest World Cup qualifying match in its history with sub-freezing temperatures, a 3-0 triumph over Honduras in St. Paul, Minn.
The game-time temperature hovered around five degrees and it dropped to zero at the final whistle. The wind-chill factor was minus 12 degrees.
For years, the U.S. men’s national team has been forced to endure the heat and humidity of Central America.
So, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter had no qualms about putting the game in such a fierce cold-weather city such as St. Paul, Minn.
The Hondurans were forced to replace goalkeeper Luiz Lopez and forward Rommel Quioto at halftime due to hypothermia.
Berhalter said U.S. Soccer provided Honduras, its staff and the referees with warm weather gear, “trying to make it a safe environment for them to play.
“When we go down to those countries, and it’s 90 degrees and 90 percent dew point and it’s unbearable humidity and guys are getting dehydrated and cramping up and getting heat exhaustion that’s the nature of our competition,” he said.
“When we schedule this game in this location, you know yet you have to go by average temperatures, daily average temperatures, and it was the best guess we want to minimize travel. We knew we were going to be playing in cold weather in two of the games. And we figured to do it in the third game as well instead of switching climates, the cold spell came through and it’s something we can’t control. But all we can do once that happens is trying to mitigate the risk by having one weather gear and going out there and competing. And we did that.”
The Hondurans, who are winless during the Concacaf Octagonal, did not play well and whatever quality they did have deteriorated over the 90 minutes, thanks to the weather.
“I don’t think they wanted any part of that tonight,” USMNT captain and center back Walker Zimmerman said. “You could just tell coming out for warm-ups, not coming out right after the half. As soon as we got that first goal, and especially the second goal, we felt like we were in really good form and then control the game.”
The key to surviving such an icebox of a match was just play and hopefully forget how cold it was.
“It’s actually a lot different going from training yesterday to warm-ups to the game just because you’re wearing extra layers,” Zimmerman said. “You have protection over your ears and whatnot. But I think once you get in that game mode, you just are out there competing. And that’s all that really matters. You block out everything else and focus on your tasks and your objective. So, I thought we did a really good job of that as a whole.”
But players wanted to get into the warmth of the locker room ASAP after the match.
That included midfielder Christian Pulisic, who was interviewed by FS1 immediately after the game.
“It’s freezing out here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting into the locker room, to be honest.”