When Real Salt Lake beat Colorado last week, gusting winds from the North forced the wind chill to dip well into the 20s at Rio Tinto Stadium.
When the team arrived in Monterrey, Mexico, on Sunday the temperature was in the upper 90s. On game day this Wednesday, the temperature could reach triple digits.
It will be a rude awakening for players who've been training in much cooler conditions all year.
"It's going to be difficult for sure," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. "We haven't seen anything like it, and we might not see it all year."
Fatigue and cramping are legitimate concerns, but the team's medical staff is already taking numerous precautions to make sure it doesn't become an issue. Beckerman said in addition to drinking plenty of fluids, since Saturday the players have been ordered to eat either a salt pill or Gatorade pack every day.
Even though the conditions aren't ideal, it could be much worse — it could also be humid.
"I worry more about humidity than anything else. I think a dry heat is OK," said Nat Borchers.
Players must conserve energy in the heat no matter what, but when it's humid sometimes it doesn't matter.
In Real Salt Lake's last MLS regular season loss in Dallas last July, the heat index was nearly 100 degrees. It was a miserable night for the players, who collectively seemed to run out of gas in the final 20 minutes.
Coach Jason Kreis said the reality of the situation is a big reason the team traveled to Monterrey on Sunday instead of Monday. By chartering down on Sunday afternoon, the team was able to get in an evening training session. The team will have additional practices on Monday and Tuesday, which Kreis said should help the players acclimate as best they can.
"We're not strangers to heat," said Kreis. "Hopefully we'll remember quickly."
How well the players handle the conditions will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the CONCACAF Champions League final. If RSL can escape Mexico with a win or tie against Monterrey — or even a one-goal loss — it will be in great shape returning to Utah for the second leg on April 27.
Borchers said in a two-game MLS Playoffs series he prefers to play the first game at home. In this instance, he loves the idea of finishing at home.
"We want to raise the Cup in front of the home fans," he said. "It would be extra special to do that at home at Rio Tinto Stadium."
For that to become a reality, Beckerman said RSL needs to be at its best in the first leg to minimize the effects of the heat.
"We're going to have to keep the ball and do well with it. We can't defend too much. If they're keeping the ball and we're playing defense the whole time we're not going to have any energy to go forward. We're going to have to be disciplined with our possession and make our possessions count," said Beckerman.
Real Salt Lake vs Monterrey
First leg: Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Monterrey, Mexico
Second leg: April 27, 8 p.m. at Sandy
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