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Enough Of This USMNT Cold Weather Talk; Cristiano Ronaldo Is Half Naked In The Sun

There’s been a lot of talk — A LOT — about how the USMNT is going to play three World Cup qualifiers in frigid temperatures this international break. Almost every post the @USMNT Twitter account has made this week has highlighted the fact it gets kinda cold in the northern parts of the U.S. in the winter.

It’s certainly a choice to play these matches in the cold, where presumably the Americans are better prepared than the players from El Salvador and Honduras. But as my colleague Connor Fleming points out, the U.S. is better than these teams; shouldn’t the focus be on having the best possible conditions to let the talent show through?

Then again, it’s mid-winter in the U.S., so there’s really no escaping the cold. With climate change, it’s unpredictable which parts of the country will be impacted the most by winter. Last February, hundreds died in Texas when the shitty power grid gave out during a rare-but-increasingly-common freeze. Regardless, two matches in the Midwest are sure to see the temperatures drop to well below what I consider tolerable for running around in shorts. 

There’s no question I’m excited to watch these World Cup qualifiers from the warmth of my own home and/or office, well within the confines of modern heating/air conditioning. I envy Mr. Fleming’s resolve in going to the Honduras match in Minnesota. You don’t want to know how many layers I wore this morning for my one mile walk to work in 9° F weather in Boulder, Colorado; I’m a Houstonian who still believes the entire city should shut down if there’s more than an inch of snow. 

Let’s be real here: No one actually likes the cold. People from the cold regions like to wear it as a badge of honor, but in reality they’re just jealous they don’t live in warmer climates. Unfortunately, not everyone can live in Hawaii. 

And not everyone can vacation like Cristiano Ronaldo.

While this international window is massively important for Concacaf nations like the USMNT, which could, in theory, clinch a trip to Qatar by Feb. 2, it is not an international window for UEFA members. Despite this, most top leagues across Europe are on break, especially with CONMEBOL, Concacaf and AFC in World Cup qualifying and AFCON still going in Cameroon. 

While Italy is holding a training camp during this period to prepare for its World Cup playoffs (in which Portugal could be an opponent in a do-or-die match), Ronaldo’s countrymen are not assembling during this break. 

Instead, the Manchester United star is using the international window to soak in some rays in Dubai. 

It’s not a huge surprise to see Ronaldo enjoying some time in the Dubai sun to get away from the dreary England winter. It’s just a bit of a contrast to how many will experience the international break this week, including players like Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, expected to pull the strings for the USMNT in its quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

While Weston McKennie, who probably saw snow about three times growing up in the Dallas area, prepares to play three matches in sub-freezing temperatures, his former Juventus teammate Ronaldo is drinking coconut water (Ronaldo doesn’t drink, so it’s not a cocktail) out of a coconut while wearing Ronaldo-branded underwear and a wristwatch that probably cost more than your car. 

Some of Ronaldo’s United teammates, including Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot, are also in Dubai this week doing some training in the warmer climate, as it appears coach Ralf Rangnick has let his players do their own thing this week. I guess Rangnick finally let go of Ronaldo’s wrists.

(Side note: Are shirts and pants not allowed in Dubai?)

Dubai and Ronaldo have a strange love affair with one another. In 2020, he hung out with the crown prince of Dubai. In December, his likeness was displayed on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, to recognize him as the greatest goal scorer of all time. 

Ronaldo did indeed see Dubai soon.

I’m sure McKennie and Pulisic would rather be on a beach than frigid Ohio, but they have a much better chance of being back in the Middle East come November, at least in a sporting context. The USMNT is closer than you think to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, with wins over El Salvador, Canada and Honduras potentially doing the trick during this window. Portugal, with its star currently enjoying some R&R in the UAE, needs to beat Turkey and then either Italy or North Macedonia in March to qualify. 

I suspect Ronaldo will once again be on vacation in November while watching the USMNT play in Qatar. 

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