RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — A tropical downpour flooded roads and prevented families of many U.S. players from making it to Arena Pernambuco for the Americans’ match with Germany on Thursday in the World Cup.
Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology said more than 3 inches (76 millimeters) of rain fell in Recife between about noon Wednesday and noon Thursday, making conditions difficult for fans trying to get to the stadium.
“It was a bizarre day. We woke up and felt like there was a hurricane last night,” U.S. defender Matt Besler said. “We’re driving in and our bus takes 50 minutes instead of 25. We’re seeing half the town in water and we get to the stadium and we find out that we’re not allowed to warm up on the field.
“It’s something I’ve never done before,” he added. “It’s the biggest game of your life and you can’t get on the field and get touches before the match. All you have to do is run 15 yards up and down the sideline to get ready.”
As kickoff neared, many streets in Recife were submerged in ankle- to thigh-high water. Several cars were stalled on multilane thoroughfares and cabs were hard to come by.
U.S. soccer officials said some of the buses carrying players’ family members left early enough to make it to the stadium, but some stopped at a restaurant to watch the match instead. Some players’ relatives, such as the wife and baby daughter of U.S. forward Chris Wondolowski, decided not to leave the hotel.
“In the back of your mind — about your family not being able to make it to the game because of the traffic and everything — you just want to make sure that they’re safe,” U.S. forward Clint Dempsey said. “There were a lot of factors going into today’s game that made it a difficult one for both teams, really, because of the conditions and not being able to get a normal warm-up.”
American midfielder Graham Zusi said he didn’t find out until after the game that his family hadn’t made it.
Knowing how difficult it was to make it to the stadium left players all the more gratified by the support they received from those who made it.
“I was listening to my music and I was looking out the window and I saw plenty of U.S. fans trekking their way to the stadium,” defender Omar Gonzalez said. “That kind of passion to root us on really helped to drive us.”
Despite the road problems, the stadium was mostly full. Many fans used the city’s subway and had no trouble getting to the arena on time.
Germany won the match 1-0, but the U.S. kept it close enough to advance to the second round on goal differential after finishing tied with Portugal for second in the group with four points.
Associated Press sports writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.
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