ORLANDO, Fla. – Newcastle United's trip to the United States could hardly be considered a vacation, but the English Premier League soccer team may need one to recover from it.
Newcastle is preparing to play the second of three international exhibition matches on Saturday when it faces Orlando City Soccer of the third-tier USL Pro League at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Playing in the stifling Florida humidity may take a backseat to some of the other problems the Magpies have encountered in the states.
After three players were left behind because of visa troubles, midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa returned home Thursday to recover from an ankle injury sustained during the 1-1 draw Wednesday against the Sporting Kansas City of the MLS. The French star's injury occurred on the same leg that was broken in two places in October against Manchester City.
Midfielder Dan Gosling also suffered a head injury in the Kansas City game, but is expected to play Saturday.
It was hot in Kansas City with temperatures in the high 90s, but not humid like it will be in the Sunshine State.
"The heat is definitely an issue," Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew said. "No matter where we play in America, it will be hot. We can't do anything about that, we just have to play in whatever weather that day has in store for us. "
Newcastle United's Premier League opener is August 13 against Arsenal. Pardew says the heat could be a factor in that match, so a game in Orlando could come in handy.
"It is not unusual," Pardew said about weather conditions in the first part of the regular season. "But it is good that we are training in this heat. The benefit of all the training and work we are putting in now will certainly pay off later."
Three players — Yohan Cabaye, Joey Barton and Nile Ranger — were denied visas and remained at home. Cabaye's absence resulted from a technicality, while Barton and Ranger were both denied because of criminal records.
In its first season, Orlando City leads the USL Pro League. The team is coached by former Everton star Adrian Heath and playing its second exhibition against an EPL squad after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.