MANAUS, Brazil – The heat hits you immediately once you step off the plane. It’s not necessarily of the scorching variety, more a heavy, humid blanket that you’d imagine slowly draining your energy reserves after prolonged exposure.
And as daunting as it could be when the United States meet Portugal in this Amazonian city of nearly 2 million on Sunday (6 pm ET, ESPN), there’s a good chance neither side will have to deal with those kinds of sweltering conditions.
Rather, the forecast for kickoff calls for temperatures in low 80s with a 60 percent chance of precipitation and more than 80 percent humidity. You don’t need to be a meteorologist to know that means, in all likelihood, rain or at the very least air heavy with humidity.
And while other teams at this World Cup, England and Italy in particular, questioned playing games in Manaus, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann dismissed those concerns on Saturday during his pregame press conference.
“I think we are very well prepared for this environment here,” Klinsmann said. “There are similar climates to play in in CONCACAF and Central America or even if you go through Florida and you play in Miami. It’s very similar to what you experience here.”
It certainly helps that the US spent the final portion of their pre-tournament training camp in south Florida to prepare for the swampy conditions. And as Klinsmann alluded to, San Pedro Sula, Kingston, San Jose, Mexico City and Panama City aren’t exactly temperate climates.
Plus, with 10 players currently plying their trade in MLS and five more that started their careers in the domestic ranks, suffocating humidity and stifling heat shouldn’t exactly come as a shock to the Americans.
“A lot of us, we play in the MLS, where we go to Houston, we go to Dallas,” USMNT midfielder Kyle Beckerman, in line for his second start, said. “The Midwest is hot and steamy in the summer, the East Coast is, too. And guys that play in Europe, they’ve played in the MLS and played in these type of temperatures. So I’m hoping that when we get there it’ll seem familiar and seem like one of those MLS cities and it won’t be too big of a deal.”
“We’ve not really done anything different to prepare for the heat,” Tim Howard added. “I think we’re fit and we’re conditioned. As long as we get good sleep and stay hydrated, we should be fine.”
The US don’t seem particularly concerned about the potential for disease, either.
Klinsmann visited all three group-stage sites well before the tournament began to gauge the conditions, facilities and, under the guidance of USMNT doctors, the potential for the likes of malaria and yellow fever.
With that in mind, players and staff were offered the option of a complete immunization program. Not everyone took advantage of that precautionary measure, but even those who did, like forward Chris Wondolowski, remain convinced they’ve got nothing to worry about during their brief stay in Manaus.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to get the immunizations down in California, so all of that stuff has been taken care of, and we will be ready to go,” Wondolowski said. “To be truthfully honest, you get to play 90 minutes in a World Cup game. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. We’ll be ready. No effects from the malaria pills, we will be ready to go.”