DOHA – The United States are one of the few World Cup teams without an official nickname, which is a bit of a shame, as well as something that probably won’t change any time soon.
While Cameroon has the Indomitable Lions and Japan is Samurai Blue and Spain La Furia Rojathe United States must be content with their old title, even if the Stars-and-Stripes and the Red-White-and-Blue are used occasionally and casually.
However, if the start of this World Cup goes off to a successful start, it might be time to give coach Gregg Berhalter a temporary nickname:
The night owls.
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In the first round of matches which will halve the field of 32, most matches are spread over four game windows, starting at witches hours in the United States, but taking place at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Qatar.
The Americans’ three group stage matches – their opener against Wales on Monday November 25 against England and the final group game against Iran on November 29 – start at the same time: 10 p.m. local.
“I’ve never played a professional game [that late]”, said American star Christian Pulisic. “Ten is a bit crazy, that’s for sure.
Winger Gio Reyna added: “I’ve never played a game this late in my life. But the Champions League is at 9 so it’s not too far. But to have three games in a row at 10 p.m. is something completely different from what I think someone has done here.”
Naturally, they figure out how to navigate these late starts.
“I think as the game gets closer, we will slowly slow down our times and treat it like the game is an evening game and start our day a bit later,” Pulisic said. “We’re not going to wake up at 7 a.m. [a.m.] and wait all day. I think that’s sort of the plan.
“It’s weird. It’s weird. But I think it’s good for us too, as long as the weather will be nice and all.”
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Indeed, given the heat in the desert oasis, even in winter in the Middle East, and all eight stadiums being air-conditioned, there is a school of thought that playing in the latter of these spots is a distinct advantage.
“I think the schedule helps the United States a lot,” said former national team star and FOX analyst Landon Donovan. “World Cup matches by day are totally different. The atmosphere at night is different.
“And it’s definitely a lot cooler at night. I don’t think late kick-offs will be a problem. They’ll just adjust their schedule later in the day.”
Science also confirms the benefit.
“Environmental conditions could play in USA’s favor in the first three games,” said FOX Sports’ Dr. Matt Provencher. “It’s all about a compressed schedule and being able to recover most efficiently is where the advantage lies. The 10 p.m. matches seem to be more manageable. Having that consistency can also help them settle into a comfortable sleeping schedule. .”
No other team in the tournament is honored in the same way. In fact, 10 teams won’t get a single match at 10 p.m., including host country Qatar. Thirteen teams play the night slot only once. Ten of them do it twice, including big names like Brazil, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina and Mexico. They will therefore have to cope with the daytime heat.
Berhalter, meanwhile, afforded himself the luxury of being able to hold evening training sessions, without his players needing to adapt to the day’s conditions. Not so for England’s Gareth Southgate, who put his side on the pitch at 12.30pm, the hottest part of the day, earlier this week.
“It was tough,” England defender Conor Coady told reporters. “It was a long session, and it was something we needed as a team to get used to it, to feel it, to understand it. It’s something we want to integrate as quickly as possible. “
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Within its group, the United States will see an advantage. Iran has a very varied program; its start times being 4 p.m., 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wales play their first and third matches at night but have a morning clash at 1pm with Iran sandwiched between the pair.
Provencher said teams with disjointed kickoff times might struggle to manage their rest needs.
“Playing at 1 p.m. or 10 p.m. is a very different body process in terms of preparation,” he said.
But playing late can also lift your spirits.
“There’s a practical benefit to playing at 10 p.m.,” said FOX football analyst Alexi Lalas. “Players tend to like night games more. Berhalter will say, ‘Hey guys, there’s a reason we play so many night games, it’s so millions and millions of people can watch you and support you.’ It’s powerful.”
If the Americans managed to win Group B – it should be noted that England are strong favorites to do so – Berhalter’s men would not play a game outside the 10 p.m. window unless they reached the final, which will take place at 6 p.m. pm local time on December 18. A second-place finish in a group would lead to a 6 p.m. start in the Round of 16, then a 10 p.m. quarter-final if he survived.
There is, of course, at least one obvious downside to the 10 p.m. departures. Relaxing, recovering and falling asleep after a high-intensity World Cup match will be a whole different story.
“Oh my God,” Reyna said. “I mean, I have trouble falling asleep after 3:30 a.m. [p.m.] games, so for a 22 hour game, I can’t even imagine how long it will take me to fall asleep.”