By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
Fact: Mexico is without question the dominant team in the North American soccer region.
Fact: Wednesday night in Mexico City, high above sea level at Estadio Azteca, it will be a night to celebrate Mexico’s Olympic medalists, and party like it was 19… uh, last Saturday, when Mexico won the men’s soccer gold medal.
Fact: El Tri’s opponent is the United States, and this rivalry is pretty one-sided the last three years or so. An American win would be a big surprise.
Fact: This “friendly” means nothing. No World Cup qualifying points at stake, no cup or title on the line and even a draw or loss for Mexico wouldn’t change who holds sway in our part of the world.
But it is USA-Mexico. It’s still a game both sides want badly to win, and its still a hot-button topic that transcends sport. A win for Mexico further solidifies it as CONCACAF’s best. A win for the U.S., well, would be a confidence builder.
It’s pretty unlikely to happen. Wednesday is Mexico’s night to gloat a little and celebrate. And its senior national team players should be highly motivated to crush the Yanks.
What’s interesting about this match is that several American players on the national team roster for Wednesday play in Liga MX, Mexico’s first division. Michael Orozco Fiscal, Jose Torres, Edgar Castillo, DaMarcus Beasley, Herculez Gomez and Joe Corona got the call. No doubt their respective club teams like them, but they will be the enemy in Azteca Wednesday.
How many eggs will get lobbed at the U.S. team bus? How big will the security detail be for any American fans who happen to be in the seats?
No Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore for the U.S. A number of other Europe-based players aren’t present. Which is fine – playing in Mexico City will be a good lesson and experience for the Major League Soccer-based players who haven’t before.
But Mexico can use the “not-at-full-strength” excuse, too. It will be without Olympians Gio Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta as well as Carlos Salcido, all who helped lead the younger players to gold in Britain.
That said, strikers Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Aldo De Nigris have been huge factors in Mexico’s rise to the top of the CONCACAF food chain. So have midfielders Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera. All are on the roster.
It’s really too bad that fans can’t see these teams play each other more often in meaningful matches. Both will more than likely be in the last group of teams fighting for World Cup 2014 spots, but won’t face each other in those qualifiers until sometime next year.
Until then, fans have Wednesday.
The U.S. team will one day rise to the top again. It might not be for several years given the wealth of Mexico’s talent at the developmental levels and the resources the country has for its favorite sport, but all things in sports work in cycles.
Wednesday will not be that night, nor will it be the start of a changing of the guard. Mexico is riding a wave of pride and confidence in its national soccer teams that cannot be overcome by the U.S. at this point, and even the most diehard USMNT fan has to acknowledge that.
North America, this is the premier soccer showdown in our region. Enjoy it, whether pulling for the Stars and Stripes or Tricolores.