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Know Your US MNT Opponent: Mexico

Mexico is – without a shadow of a doubt – the Yanks’ most hated soccer rival in the world. El Tri scored five goals and absolutely dominated the Red, White and Blue during last month’s Gold Cup Final, but that game featured both team’s JV sides. Now, the two bitter foes meet again in City in the region’s most anticipated Qualifier.

This time, both squads are expected to proffer their Best XI, and the US vets will hope to achieve a better result than the youngsters did in late July. According to Brian Ching, the US plans to use the Gold Cup beatdown to fuel their fiery desire against Mexico tomorrow. In fact, he has promised he and Bradley’s boys are going to “bring it.” Bring it?

Now, unless we are talking about a cheerleading competition, “bring it” sounds a little lame. Whatever “it” is that Ching plans to “bring”, the US has clearly never “brought” it to Mexico before. Sure, we won the 2002 World Cup showdown in South Korea (arguably the biggest game in the two teams’ histories), but our record in Mexico is a sad 0-22-1.

Ouch. That’s zero wins, one tie, and a whopping twenty-freaking-two losses. In our last World Cup Qualifier in Mexico in 2006, we almost pulled out a win, but ended up with a close 2-1 loss yet again. Why is it that we can (usually) best El Tri on US soil, but not south of the Rio Grande? It’s not the “12th Man” effect, as Mexico gets that here in the US too.

I think it’s Estadio Azteca itself. The stadium is one of the most historic in the world. Pele and Maradona both hoisted the Jules Rimet trophy there (and Diego used his “Godly” hand to do something else). It’s also featured performances by an impressive and eclectic group of individuals, including Michael Jackson, U2 and Pope John Paul II.

The thin air of Azteca has always made Yanks look out of breath and the huge, insane crowds (it’s the 5th largest stadium in the world) have made our Nats look flat-out intimidated. After the team did so well in the Confederations Cup (and had to watch their JV buds get whupped by El Tri), I am betting this is our best chance to win @ Mexico ever.

I am not saying I think we will win, just that we are more poised to do so now @ Azteca than ever. After all, since our last trip to Mexico, an American team finally won a game in Azteca for the first time… I am talking about the Arizona Cardinals who beat the San Francisco 49ers at Azteca in the NFL’s first annual game at an international venue in 2007.

Hey, when your record is 0-22-1, you have to be as optimistic as possible. Is Kurt Warner’s wife available to come and give us moral support? Probably not. I bet that Leinart guy is free though. Plus, I understand he loves Mexico (though he probably likes the Spring Break beaches of Cabo better than the frenzied atmosphere of Estadio Azteca).