HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls’ trip to Houston’s Roberson Stadium on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) presents not just the challenge of a hostile crowd, a history of poor play in Houston or the third place team in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls will be battling the elements themselves. With the temperature expected to reach the upper 80s in central Texas on Saturday, New York could be in for quite a hot time.
It’s a situation that could prove especially difficult for RBNY’s northern European contingent.
Norwegian international Jan Gunnar Solli, in his first year in MLS, said that in Norway, the referee would often call a water break in the middle of the half to allow players to hydrate. The average high temperature in Norway during the summer months is in the low 70s, significantly lower than what the temperature will be in Houston at kickoff on Saturday night.
Solli noticed that MLS doesn’t have mini-water breaks during the games like in Norway, but he said his teammates have been talking about the heat and how best to handle it.
“That doesn’t happen here,” Solli said. “Every single chance you get to get some water, you have to.”
According to Solli, the Red Bulls technical staff encourages the players to hydrate on long flights — “if we have to go to the bathroom a little, so be it,” he joked — and to be smart in terms of drinking water during the game.
For the players from the cooler European climates such as Estonian-born Joel Lindpere, now in his second year in MLS, it can be an adjustment.
“It can get to you, the heat,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s all about the hydration, we clearly need to drink more water. It’s not too bad, but it is something you have to keep in your mind while you’re playing so that you don’t cramp up later in the game. It is just one of those things you have to deal with.”
The Red Bulls have the largest contingent of northern European players in the league with Solli and Lindpere joined by Finland’s Teemu Tainio. Signed this past January, Tainio was aware of the climate issue when came to MLS. The central midfielder said it won’t impact him, even though he has yet to play a regular-season game in a climate hotter than 80 degrees.
“I played in France for seven years during the summertime,” Tainio said. “I don’t care if I play in the summer, snow, ice.”
Having spent the offseason in Mexico and then Arizona, the Red Bulls feel they’re prepared to handle the heat and humidity of Saturday afternoon. Still, given the six straight days of rain in the New York metropolitan area, Saturday night in Houston could be quite an adjustment for the Red Bulls.
“I’m just happy that we’re not playing in [Houston] the middle of summer,” Solli said. “That’d be pretty awful for a Norwegian guy.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer