Couva, Trinidad — The final path to the World Cup involved an unexpected water crossing for the United States.
Heavy rain on this Caribbean island 7½ miles off the coast of Venezuela left the center of Ato Boldon Stadium’s field soggy, the flanks submerged and the encircling running track flooded. While the team’s 10,000 pounds of equipment included 200 boots, 65 balls, 60 rain jackets and 30 cases of Powerade, a Bailey bridge was not in the inventory, so many American players were carried onto the field in an attempt to keep their feet somewhat dry for the final training session before today’s match against Trinidad and Tobago.
“I saw the field and I just kind of giggled,” star American midfielder Christian Pulisic said.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association said in a statement water will be pumped off the track and “all parties are confident the game will be contested.” It said the decision whether to use the field is up to the match commissioner, Hector Canchola of Mexico.
Hoisted on a shoulder of trainer Luis Ramirez, defender DeAndre Yedlin said he had not been carried onto a soccer field since he was 3 or 4.
“I would love to see one of these hotshot teams from Europe come here and play in our CONCACAF qualifying and really get a taste of this and see what that’s about,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “This is like survival of the fittest.”
A temperature of about 80 is forecast. Arena predicted a slow and sloppy game.
“If after inspecting the field the conditions are not playable, then a decision will be made,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. “But at this point, absolutely playable.”
The U.S. would secure its eighth straight World Cup spot with a win and almost certainly with a tie because of the Americans’ superior goal difference. A defeat would lead to elimination if Panama beats visiting Costa Rica and Honduras wins at home against Mexico.
United States at Trinidad and Tobago
Kickoff: 8 Tuesday, Ato Bolden Stadium, Couva, Trinidad
TV: beIN Sports
Records: U.S. 3-3-3, Trinidad and Tobago 1-8
Scenarios: Win and the U.S. qualifies for the 2018 World Cup. They also can advance with a tie via goal differential. If the U.S. loses, it gets in if Honduras loses to Mexico and Panama loses to Costa Rica