MONTERREY, Mexico – On Wednesday, the day of Real Salt Lake’s critical CONCACAF Champions League final first-leg matchup against CF Monterrey (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), temperatures here are expected to peak at around 99 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s more than 50 degrees warmer than when the team left Salt Lake.
It’s hot by any standards. However, nobody seems to be overly concerned about the issue.
“It’s a challenge, no doubt about it,” midfielder Will Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s hot, but that’s one of the realities of their home-field advantage is us having to play in the heat.”
Johnson feels it’s an issue that can be overcome.
“We’re down here nice and early to get a few good training sessions in to get acclimated," he added. "I don’t think it’s a problem.”
Teammate Ned Grabavoy feels that the heat isn’t something that they haven’t had to deal with before, but it is something that could affect their performance.
“You don’t usually get this until summer,” he said after sweating his way through a two-hour team practice. “We’re going to have to fight like crazy to get out of here with a result.”
One thing that is important in combating the heat is hydration.
“Everybody has got to pay a little more attention to their bodies,” stressed Grabavoy, “make sure that we’re getting the fluids in. We’re doing all of the right stuff to make sure that we’re keeping our bodies fit. But I think everyone here is professional enough to know what they need to do, and they’ll do that.”
Real Salt Lake are a team that likes to keep possession and Grabavoy feels that could be a key in this match.
“We have to be able to try to keep long possessions to help give us the rest that we need," he said, "so that we’re not constantly defending because they are obviously a good possession team as well.”
Added RSL team strength and conditioning coach Dan Barlow, “The body runs just a little bit less efficiently” when it’s in a hotter surrounding. He admitted that although the players’ bodies may adjust somewhat to the heat over the next couple of days, “they won’t be all the way there by kickoff.”
Coach Jason Kreis does not appear to be overly concerned about that.
“I know that it’s warm here and the temperatures are very high," he said, "but with last night and this morning – we think it cools down at the right times and with the match being at 9 pm [local time], we think that will be beneficial to us.”