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USMNT embraces the cold conditions ahead of winter World Cup qualifiers

Lizzy Becherano
Gregg Berhalter sees ice-cold conditions as an advantage over opponents during January World Cup qualifiers
Gregg Berhalter sees ice-cold conditions as an advantage over opponents during January World Cup qualifiers / Harry How/GettyImages

The United States men’s national team is gearing up for the upcoming round of World Cup Qualifiers. 

Head coach Gregg Berhalter called up a 28-man roster to face El Salvador, Canada and Honduras. 

The team is currently training at the Columbus Crew’s OhioHealth Performance Center, where the 20 degree temperature and snowy conditions have made for an interesting setup. 

“I was just outside today training and it's really cold, and my feet felt cold,” said Austria-based midfielder Brenden Aaronson in a Monday afternoon media availability. 

“But listen, I'm used to it, I just got back from where it was snowing last game. So I think a lot of these guys are used to it, playing in Europe, and most of the MLS guys, I would imagine. So yeah, I think we're ready to go.”

But Ohio’s current conditions may work in the favor of the USMNT as they travel to Hamilton, Ontario to face Canada on January 30. The United States currently sits in second place on the Concacaf table, only one point behind Canada. 

“It's just about embracing the cold. Get ready, understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” goalkeeper Matt Turner, the New Jersey native said on Friday.

 “And just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in 0 degrees in the same time of year. It's a pretty cool thing. So we're excited. We're looking forward to embracing it.”

Players do not appear worried about the conditions, instead Walker Zimmerman and Antonee Robinson are welcoming the opportunity to be a part of something greater. 

“I look back at some of my first times watching the men's national team, and seeing that 2013 Snow Clasico game in Colorado against Costa Rica sticks out in my head. I was even talking to my wife over the break. I was like, 'I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want it to snow,'” said defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and really remember growing up. That's exciting to me.”

“It’s something I think everyone's looking forward to. Growing up in England, I'm not a stranger to snow,” said Fulham player Antonee Robinson.

“Kind of takes me back to when I was younger, I remember Boxing Day, it was a big thing in my Sunday league team, we used to play ‘dads vs. lads,’ so all the sons would be playing against the dads on a snowy pitch. That's some of the happiest football I have ever played.”

On the other end, Berhalter is working through the technicalities that challenging weather brings by ensuring the field conditions in Columbus, Ohio and Saint Paul, Minnesota remain at their best ahead of the crucial matches.

The USMNT boss also sees the circumstances as an advantage, seeing that El Salvador and Honduras train in tropical conditions. 

“It's mind over matter,” said Berhalter on Friday.

“This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents. They're all coming from the equator, and it's going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.

"They're going to take a couple breaths in and it's going to hit them like they'd never been before. And our guys who have been playing in Europe, in cooler temperatures, and most of the guys here have played in cool temperatures, will be ready to go.”