Tony Sanneh tried to be a badass.
The St. Paul native didn’t wear diapers under his United States Men’s National Team jersey for a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio in February 2001.
“I remember thinking that I would be brave and only wear a short-sleeved shirt in the first half. It was just stupid,” Sanneh recalled last week. intimidating. It was, ‘you’re an idiot.’ ”
Sanneh donned a long-sleeved jersey at halftime and the United States beat Mexico 2-0 in what became the legendary first “dos a cero” score over the Americans’ rivals.
The temperature was 29 degrees at kickoff in Ohio that day – and that would look downright tropical compared to what’s forecast for USA’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras at Allianz Field Wednesday.
The National Weather Service forecast a low of minus-13 for St. Paul on Sunday, with northwesterly winds up to 10 mph.
When the pioneering press asked about the possible contingencies for the game given these frigid forecasts, an American football spokesperson instead referred to the similar temperatures for the NHL Winter Classic on the day of the Year. It was 6-under when the puck fell at Target Field for the Wild-Blues game and was 10-under when the game ended in Minneapolis a month ago.
If the forecast registers this low and the USMNT game goes as planned, Wednesday’s game could become the coldest professional game played in the United States. for the Packers-Cowboys playoff game in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1967.
Sanneh is the match ambassador for Wednesday’s qualifying and said he was unsure what to make of the match conditions.
“It could be very cold, but that’s what it’s like to be in Minnesota,” said Sanneh, who played 43 games for the United States. “If Minnesota is a must for future American teams, it’s our Lambeau (Field). That’s where you have to go, if you want to beat us.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States staged their first winter qualifier in Columbus last Thursday, where it was 29 degrees as the United States beat El Salvador 1-0. It was 20 degrees when Canada beat the United States 2-0 on Sunday in Hamilton, Ont.
American Football and Allianz Field officials have consulted with Target Field on how best to accommodate fans in frigid weather next Wednesday. They will provide a handful of accommodations, including free hand warmers to the crowd, which is expected to reach the capacity level of just under 20,000.
They will also allow supporters to bring in battery-operated cold-weather equipment and blankets, host medical posts and refuge areas around the stadium, have staff walk around the stadium to monitor supporters, increase heat in bathrooms and provide additional hot food and beverages at concession stands.
“It depends on the people – fan safety, staff safety and some of the precautions we had to take from a construction standpoint,” said Justin Borrell, general manager of Allianz Field. “I think our brewhouse is going to be a huge success in terms of (providing hot zones). It’s just about focusing on people and how the building can best serve people.
Regarding contingencies, Borrell said: “We have been in constant communication with the people at US Soccer. It’s really the entity that comes and goes with (FIFA and the match commissioner). It was essential to include them in our planning.
“We haven’t heard that we’re hitting a threshold that might conflict with the actual play of the game, but instead we’re focusing again on how we can take care of those people, whether it’s players, fans, staff.”
The United States took on Canada on cold artificial turf in Ontario on Sunday; Allianz Field will work to have a better playing surface.
Minnesota United’s four-year-old stadium has underground heating coils that began thawing the natural grass a few weeks ago. Its purpose is to coax plant growth, but it has also helped melt about 10 inches of snow off the grass.
Still, cold air temperatures forced them to resort to manual snow removal for the last few inches in the middle of last week. They removed everything and were able to mow it on Saturday. Basement surface temperatures will be around 40 to 55 degrees.
“We are not in mid-July; it’s February 2 in Minnesota,” Allianz Field assistant groundskeeper Mitch Ronning said. “Obviously we did our best. We’re giving it our all, but it’s either snow or freezing cold, as far as gameplay goes. This is probably not what you will get in the summer as this plant is not as active.
Allianz Field is preparing for the group of American Outlaws supporters to come out “in force,” Borrell said. Some of them are also Minnesota Loons fans.
“People in Minnesota don’t mind the cold and anyone who wants to see the game is going to come watch the game,” Borrell said. “We’re getting great responses on that, even with the weather and different things that are planned.”
FIVE COLDEST PRO SPORTS EVENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
-13 – Packers vs. Cowboys December 31, 1967
-9 – Bengals vs. Chargers, Jan. 10, 1982
-6 – Wild vs. Blues, January 1, 2022
-6 – Vikings vs. Seahawks, January 10, 2016
-4 – Packers vs. Giants, Jan. 20, 2008