The last time the United States and Argentina met, the second half was marked by a torrential downpour, only it didn't put a damper on the match. As the rain began to fall at Giants Stadium on June 8, 2008, the intensity on the field only increased and the sell out crowd was sent into a frenzy. The match finished as frantic as it was in the stands as the two teams finished scoreless, but not due to a lack of effort, activity or chances.
On Saturday, the U.S. and Argentina will square off again in New Jersey, this time right next door to the since demolished Giants Stadium at New Meadowlands Stadium. While they may be moving next door, the match will still be in the New Jersey swamp and it appears, in unkind weather. Unfortunately, the kind of weather in the forecast for Saturday isn't the cooing thunderstorm on a warm summer day like it was three years ago, but instead temperatures right around freezing.
There have been dustings of snow in the New York/New Jersey area in past days and while it looks like the wet and sticky stuff will stay away on Saturday, the cold will not. The forecast has the temperature at 34 degrees when the match kicks off at 7 pm EDT and only getting colder and the night wears on. The cold alone makes for an uncomfortable night, but that can be worked through. What makes the cold a real problem though, is the field.
New Meadowlands Stadium normally has an artificial turf field, but U.S. head coach Bob Bradley refuses to play on turf and most opposing teams insist on grass for matches. For these friendlies, natural grass is laid down and that will be the case on Saturday with grass aid over the New Meadowlands Stadium turf.
The problem with grass laid over turf is that it doesn't take root and isn't as stable as grass should be. There is a reason Bradley refuses to let the U.S. play on grass laid over turf for World Cup qualifiers. It's not of very high quality, with its seams and bumps and that is in good weather. Freezing temperatures and a dusting of know certainly will not help the field settle and smooth.
With Argentina having the ability to send Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel di Maria and Javier Pastore all in the attack. Few teams can match their ability to knock the ball around and play attractive football, but a bumpy and uneven pitch with seams that hasn't settled will not do much to help their play.
A field of that condition a very real possibility with the weather and if the pitch does limit possession and attacking play, it will certainly favor the United States. The Yanks cannot play with the skill of Argentina, but they do have the strength and speed, which would pay off in a more physical match that could break out if the pitch doesn't allow for prettier play.
For all of the attention that the players may get on Saturday, it may be the field that has the biggest impact. Of course, just as was the case three years ago, it's doubtful that the weather affects the crowd much. The expected sell out crowd will still fill the stadium and provide all the buzz and energy, but they might not get a beautiful show on the field.