It’s bad enough that the Sounders will be on three-days’ rest, while the Fire will be playing for the first time in four months. Even worse still is the 9 AM local kickoff — 6 AM for the brave ones on the West Coast who decide to sacrifice sleep for soccer. But the morning kickoff will see temperatures start out at around 83 degrees, with a humidity level of around 80%.
The Sounders will be the first team to play a second MLS is Back match and are currently the only team scheduled to play an early morning match on such short rest.
Just for good measure, there’s a chance of rain in the forecast as the Sounders try to get their first win of the tournament. The Sounders have been training at 9 AM for the past couple of days to try to simulate the game conditions, but head coach Brian Schmetzer said those sessions can only go so far before the heat index becomes unbearable. On Tuesday, for example, temperatures are supposed to top 90 by noon when it will feel closer to 102 once humidity is factored in.
“The training because of the heat hasn’t been that much.” Schmetzer said. While the Sounders have, of course, trained and played games in hot and humid temperatures, it’s a fairly infrequent occurrence, and certainly not in anything like the overall conditions of this game. “We’ve played games at one in the afternoon in Houston or Sporting KC,” Schmetzer said. “So games are possible, but certainly not ideal.”
For the players on the field, it will be a matter of managing the energy for an entire game. Even with five substitutions, half of the field players will be playing the full game. “It is hard. It’s going to be very hard,” said Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson. “It’s the same for both teams, so you have to man up and deal with it. If you think about it, if you talk about it too much it becomes a problem.
“What’s important in this tournament is mental strength. If we can overcome [the heat], we have a good chance of winning.”
The 9 AM start time is an attempt to mitigate the conditions — for a time at least — but even though the Sounders have been in Central Florida for about 10 days, it’s still an open question as to how the conditions will affect the team.
“We’ve had to get up early for testing, starting at 7 AM,” Schmetzer said. “The bus is going to leave [Tuesday] at 7:30 AM So hopefully their body clocks will be used to that. We have given them different ideas ... techniques on how to shut the body down.
“So we are pulling out all the stops to get them in a good physical state tomorrow.”
- Schmetzer ruled out both Will Bruin and Joao Paulo for the game. João Paulo’s status for the Vancouver game is “TBD,” according to Schmetzer.
- All other players are available for selection versus the Fire. Jordan Morris, who left the game early, was merely suffering from cramps. Schmetzer noted that most of the team had that issue during parts of the game, even goalkeeper Stefan Frei.