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SAO PAULO – Kyle Beckerman is counting on all his experience playing Major League Soccer games in the heat and humidity to prepare him for what he will face in the World Cup on Sunday.
Hydration and planning are paramount for weathering the challenging tropical conditions of the Amazon rain forest, where the Americans are headed for their weekend showdown with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
The world players' union on Friday called for teams to be more cautious before and during matches in the steamy climates of Manaus and Fortaleza. The union reacted to complaints that there just aren't adequate chances for players to catch their breath or rehydrate to avoid cramping.
"Well, I think a lot of us, we play in the MLS and we go to Houston, go to Dallas, and the Midwest is hot and steamy in the summer, the East Coast is," said Beckerman, a U.S. midfielder. "And guys who play in Europe, they've played in the MLS and played in these temperatures, so I'm hoping when we get there it will seem familiar and seem like one of those MLS cities and it won't be too big of a deal."
Germany and Ghana face off Saturday in another Group G match at Fortaleza.
FIFA allows cooling breaks when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius). FIFPro Chief Medical Officer Vincent Gouttebarge insists FIFA's introduction of those short breaks — 3-4 minutes each — at the 30th and 75th minutes do not suffice for "optimal re-hydration."
"Sports science shows that the amount of fluid an athlete can ingest and digest during exercising is up to 200-250ml every 15 minutes," Gouttebarge said in a statement. "Consequently, an optimal re-hydration strategy could rely on two short water breaks every 15 minutes during each half of a match, rather than on a single four minute water break during each half."
Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio said he felt as if he were having "hallucinations" during a 2-1 opening victory against England at the Arena da Amazonia due to the conditions.
And if he thinks this is hard, if the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is played in June, the temperatures are likely to reach 100-plus.
The U.S. team had no cases of cramping during last summer's winning run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the Americans won't change much heading to Manaus: hydration, nutrition and rest.
"To me, these conditions are very similar to the States in July," U.S. sports performance dietitian Danielle LaFata said Friday, before the Americans departed from Sao Paulo Futebol Clube. "The guys, I've been having talks with them about keeping up on their fruit and vegetable intake because fruits and vegetables are 80-90 percent water."
LaFata is having the kitchen staff use additional salt in team meals. She's also encouraging players to eat plenty of carbohydrates and will be adding electrolytes to sports drinks.
She planned to go through the aisles every 30 minutes during the team's 4-hour flight to encourage hydration.
"We heard about the conditions and we tried to prepare for that in Florida to try to face the weather," right back Fabian Johnson said. "I think we'll take a few days to adjust to this and hopefully be ready for it."
No European team has ever won a World Cup played in South America.
Physicist Stephen Hawking, Britain's most famous scientist, offered his conclusion last month that one factor England needed to win in Brazil was to avoid high temperatures and the environmental effects. The Three Lions opened with a loss to Italy in Manaus, then were eliminated from advancing out of group D on Friday when Costa Rica beat the Azzurri — a day after England's 2-1 loss to Uruguay.
The Americans are trying to put the heat and elements at the back of their minds. Stopping Ronaldo is a main focus.
"It's going to be hot," forward Chris Wondolowski said. "You get to play 90 minutes in a World Cup game. It doesn't matter how hot it is. We'll be ready."