This game has a special importance for me. As a Mexican-American living here in the U.S. who roots for Mexico, things can get complicated. During my time with another blog last year, I wrote an article which I believe perfectly encapsulates my feelings about this match. I will be taking bits and pieces of that article and incorporate it into this one. It’s like the remix to ignition, hot and fresh off my…laptop.
A Short History of My History
I was raised as a Catholic, but my true religion was that of the tricolor. I was born in East Los Angeles but my father made sure that my true soccer allegiance was tied to that of the Mexican national team, he made sure of it. After playing a few years with “Los Tapatios,” a second division team associated with Chivas of Guadalajara in Mexico, my father had to move north to the United States in order to find work. He eventually settled down to become a mechanic, met my mother, and continued to work as his dreams of soccer glory began to slowly slip away.
While his peers (such as the current coach of the Mexican national team, Chepo de la Torre) continued to have much success, he continued working in the U.S. and supporting his national team back home. After I came around, I was taught everything there was to know about Mexican soccer. He explained to me the stunning size and beauty of Estadio Azteca, the wonderful playing style that Hugo Sanchez once had, and about the very infamous rivalry with the United States.
(Mexico during the 1998 World Cup)
For a Mexican fan like myself, watching the team play in the 90’s felt like being on an emotional roller-coaster. It was exciting to see them do well in multiple international tournaments but also disheartening to see them begin to lose friendlies to the U.S. at the same time. Although I supported the U.S. in every sport and was proud (and still am) to be born in the United States, I couldn’t support them in soccer, it went against everything I was taught. It became embedded in my mind that Mexico was my team and a loss against our main rivals would be devastating for me.
(Little known fact, Jorge Campos scored 14 goals in his second year of professional soccer)
As the 2000’s rolled around, things did not get any better for Mexico. Qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, a usually easy task, became difficult as the team suffered multiple losses, including one to their main rivals. Just one year later the teams once again squared off in the round of 16 of the Korea/Japan tournament. Both teams had seen each other in the past but this was the first time at the World Cup and through a knockout game as well. The stage couldn’t get any bigger for either country. To say I was nervous, would be an understatement. 90 minutes later Mexico had lost 2-0, an obvious upset to the team and a blow to the confidence of the supporters back at home.
It took almost 8 years for Mexico to finally beat the U.S. and reclaim their soccer dignity. Before the Gold Cup final in 2011, I would have probably told you that the U.S. national team was better than the Mexican side. Since then, I really haven’t been able to say who is better, my obvious bias wants me to say Mexico, but I can’t help but recognize the talent of the U.S. team as well, especially after August of last year. Am I saying that the U.S. national team is better than us because they beat us at Azteca? Using that logic, can we say that Mexico is better than Brazil because we beat them 2-0 just one month before our historic loss at Azteca? Not at all. Both games in the end, were friendlies. Yet, even a loss in a friendly game in Azteca is the sign of at the very least, a good team.
While it is tough to admit (and I’m sure it’s tough for U.S. fans as well), I think that both teams have learned to benefit from each other. The CONCACAF has gained much more respect as both teams have continued to flourish in international competitions. Through that, we have been able to gain more spots into the greatest stage in soccer, the World Cup. in 1990 only 2 teams from the CONCACAF were allowed to qualify, now going into the 2014 Cup, we have 3.5 spots allotted for North America.
The movement of players between the countries is also over-looked. Players such as Joe Corona, DaMarcus Beasely, and Herculez Gomez are able to train and compete in Mexico while playing for the U.S. national team. Rafa Marquez, one of Mexico’s most famous defenders, competed in the MLS as a member of the New York Red Bulls (although his performance there was a little controversial). 19 year-old Mexican Giovani Casillas, who excelled in the 2011 U-17 World Cup is currently training with Chivas USA while Richard Sanchez, Mexico’s U-20 starting keeper, trains with FC Dallas.
Chivas USA was brought into the MLS in order to cater to the Mexican fans living in Southern California while there are talks of creating an MLS expansion team from Mexico. It is sometimes all too easy to look at the animosity between both sides (such as the fan conduct during the 2011 Gold Cup Final) and completely forget the progress that has been made. That being said, I have learned to like and respect the U.S. national team, it’s obvious that they are becoming better each year and may even win the World Cup at some point in the future, but until then, I still have to support and love El Tri.
Probable Mexico Line-up
Ochoa had a decent game during Honduras but I believe that his involvement with the last U.S. game (a 1-0 loss) and Corona’s more than likely appointment of team captain, will mean that Corona will get the start.
In the defensive middle, Reyes is the more talented option (and would be my choice), but Chepo is going to prefer Ayala’s stronger defensive style along with his slight edge over Reyes on experience for the national side.
In the left back it was a choice of either Salcido or Guardado. Although Guardado is a little bit quicker, he would be missed so much more on the left hand side than Salcido would in the middle. That being said, Salcido might also find it easier to sit in the back (as opposed to the middle) and we might see him doing better stamina-wise as a defender.
I’ve included Herrera in the middle as wishful-thinking. It’s probably going to be (but I really don’t want it to be) Torrado with Zavala on the side. Herrera is more than ready to get a start and what better advantage would the team have then Azteca to play more of an attacking role (Herrera-Zavala) than a defensive one (Salcido-Zavala)?
We learned last game that the 4-2-3-1 can be very successful for us and even though it ended as a draw, Mexico appeared as the dominant side during the Honduras game with said formation. Mexico is going to need to attack for the full 90 and take complete advantage of the venue.
We’ve been all waiting for a solid and impressive Mexico victory for months now and this upcoming Tuesday would be the perfect time. We have a 8-1-1 record against the U.S. at Azteca, let’s not make it 8-1-2.
Mexico 3-1 USA