That’s why they call it a home-field advantage
Costa Rica has filed a protest with FIFA – the governing body of world soccer – over the wintery conditions during Friday night’s game with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
According to the Costa Rican Football Federation, the “physical integrity” of the players and officials was comprised by the snow, ball movement was “impossible” and the players could not see the lines on the field.
“We have already handed a formal report and complaint within 24 hours post-match, according to regulations,” Eduardo Li, the federation’s president, told a Costa Rican television station. “It was terrible. While the match was being played, at the same time, machines and people came onto the field to clean the lines. These are embarrassing situations we should not accept.”
Not surprisingly, seeing as how the U.S. won the game and three important points in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica would like to replay the game under “more favorable conditions.”
Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto told a local newspaper that the match was “embarrassing for football and embarrassing for fair play. It’s disrespectful to FIFA, the fans, the players and the spectacle.”
Funny, we watched the game and the fans seemed to be having a grand time.
The protest is probably going to be dismissed on a technicality as FIFA has specific requirements for protests that Costa Rica probably did not meet.
But that misses the bigger point, as apparently having a home-field advantage isn’t right if it is the U.S. that has the advantage.
After all, the U.S. faces far worse conditions than a little bit of snow when they hit the road for qualifying matches.
Consider Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, where the U.S. will face Mexico on Tuesday night. Thanks to the smog and the 7,200-foot altitude of Mexico City, the El Tri has only lost one World Cup qualifying match at Azteca.
“The conditions at Azteca are difficult,” former U.S coach Bruce Arena told The Los Angles Times in 2009. “You have around 100,000 people. The stadium is massive. The sightlines are real difficult for players. There are literally probably 20 yards from the touchline to the dugouts. You see that and the field looks like you’re out in the country.
“Then you start dealing with the heat and the altitude and it gets to your head. Not only your head. The physiology is difficult. I remember games where we had oxygen at halftime. It’s hard. It’s an awesome home-field advantage.”
During a game in 2009, a cup of vomit was thrown at Landon Donovan while he set up for a corner kick.
Things get even worse when the U.S. heads to Central America.
“These teams make it hard for you, not just on the field, but off,” U.S. forward Herculez Gomez told The Sporting News in 2012. “It’s a hostile environment. All the tricks in the book are pulled out.”
Gomez plays his club soccer in Torreon, Mexico, the seventh-most dangerous city in the world. If anyone knows from hostile environments it’s him; if he says playing games in Central America is tough, we believe him.
It’s not just the opponents, the heat and the field conditions. It’s also the fans that the U.S. has to deal with.
“It’s a little different. Batteries being thrown and hard objects being thrown, bags of urine, whatever that is, that’s all part of our experience going to Central American countries,” former U.S. player Taylor Twellman told The Sporting News. “How the United States of American is viewed around the world, you don’t realize it until you go somewhere else and you’re wearing the USA colors and playing against that home country. They always view us differently.”
Twellman also mentioned mysterious wake-up calls in the middle of the night at the hotel, a radio station staging a late-night promotion outside the hotel in Guatemala, or a newspaper publishing the floor plan of the hotel the team was staying at in Honduras.
So, to recap, throwing bags of urine and cups of vomit at the players? That’s all fun and games. But a little snow? Protest! (Next time the U.S. should schedule a game in Cleveland in January. That will teach the whiners.)
We have a feeling that bags of urine and cups of vomit may not be the only thing the U.S. will encounter when they play the return match at Costa Rica in September.
For now, while the protest is pure nonsense, hopefully it won’t distract the team during its preparation for tomorrow’s game with Mexico. (Although the Mexican media is already doing its part.)
The last time the two teams met, the U.S. pulled off its first ever win at Azteca. Even though that match was a friendly, Mexico will be out to reassert its dominance over the Americans at home. Plus, El Tri should be fired up after blowing a 2-0 lead on Friday against Honduras.
This game offers Jürgen Klinsmann and the squad a chance at a defining win, although it won’t be easy. Mexico hasn’t lost a World Cup qualifying game since June 2009, and is 68-1-6 in qualifying matches at Azteca (the lone loss coming 12 years ago).
Two games into the Hexagonal qualifying, the U.S. sits in second place, one point ahead of Mexico. A win on Tuesday would show that last summer’s win was not a fluke. A tie and the U.S. will be in a good spot as they will have their two toughest road games out of the way.
Let Costa Rica have their little protest. The U.S. has bigger things to worry about right now.
Although they may want to bring some umbrellas with them come September.
(Photo by USA Today)