This afternoon at 4:00pm Pacific time on ESPN is the first match of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying “hexagonal” — U.S. v. Mexico. All the stars are back from Europe for this intense rivalry.
These teams absolutely despise each other. The Mexicans dominated the series from the 1930’s until around 10 years ago. But in the last decade the US is 9-1-2 against them, the only two losses coming at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, one of the toughest road games in the world. The nine wins include the humiliating (for Mexicans) 2-0 result in the 2002 World Cup finals in Korea, which propelled the US to the quarter-finals.
In order to prevent the Mexicans from enjoying a large expat crowd, US Soccer is holding the match in Columbus, Ohio, where only 2% of the population is Hispanic. They reportedly sacrificed over $1MM in gate revenue to hold the match at the most unfriendly venue possible for the Mexicans — cold weather, small (24K) but vocal pro-US crowd, no Mexican population.
Should be a great game. Lots of compelling story-lines, including whether the Mexico coach, Swede Sven Goran Ericsson, keeps his job. As a US player once said, “When you beat Mexico, you’re smiling for a month.”