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No tough talk from Mexico day before the USA game


A year ago around this time it was tough to miss the animosity and tension from Mexican players prior to the match against the United States in Phoenix. There was plenty of talk of finally winning on American soil and some tangible hatred toward the U.S. team as then new coach Hugo Sanchez promised to restore Mexico to the status of the region’s unquestioned powerhouse.

A year later and the talk has changed.

Maybe it was because Oswaldo Sanchez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco aren’t around (and Rafael Marquez essentially dodged the media). Maybe it was the softball questions (which were a bit surprising from Mexican media generally regarded as tough). Maybe it is the fact that the Mexican national team hasn’t won on American soil in nine tries.

Whatever the reason was, there was a different tone to the talk from Mexico today. A tone of respect and a tone lacking the bravado of a year ago.

Pavel Pardo downplayed the importance of the match (which he also did last year on both occasions. When Hugo Sanchez was asked about the stats being so heavily in the U.S. team’s favor, the Mexican coach pulled a Bob Bradley and delivered a "we focus on the positive stats and not the negative stats."

Yes, that was Hugo Sanchez, who must have learned humility between now and last summer, when he still found excuses for why Mexico lost the Gold Cup final. Either that or Sanchez has figured out that tough talk and talk of turning the series around rings hollow after two straight losses to the Americans. The closest he came to being controversial was when he said he would like to see the rivalry play more games in Mexico, "to balance out the stats." (and no, the above photo wasn’t from this trip, but do I really need an excuse to run it?).

Fair point, indeed, but Mexican fans and media aren’t likely to give Hugo a pass if the Mexicans lose tomorrow just because all three losses during Sanchez’s tenure will have been on American soil.

Another reason for a calmer approach from Mexico? Perhaps the Mexicans realize that they are missing their two best attacking players, Andres Guardado and Nery Castillo, which gives them a built-in excuse if they do lose. The reality is Mexico is still loaded, boasting Pardo, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Rafael Marquez and Guillermo Ochoa so a win is far from a long-shot, but you can bet your bottom peso that Sanchez will remind us that Castillo and Guardado are missing if Mexico does lose.

What does seem a long-shot these days is anything controversial coming from either team during the lead-up to tomorrow’s game. The truth is that makes me a bit sentimental. As much as you all hated hearing Blanco and Oswaldo and Hugo Sanchez talk trash, you know it added to the intensity and to the excitement before the match.

Wednesday’s match won’t need it, not with all the young talent on display and the sell-out crowd expected at Reliant Stadium. That said, it would still be fun to hear a player on either side stir things up. This is, after all, a rivalry.


  1. While its always nice to beat Mexico, I think the U.S. has other things to be concerned with.

    On the one hand, developing the rivalry is important for pulling in casual minded football fans, but the U.S. and Mexico both have bigger cod to broil than who wins this friendly. This match is mainly for money and marketing, and also I’m the sure the players involved enjoy the instant intensity.

    A match against Argentina or another team currently in the South American World Cup Qualifying pool would have been useful. Beating Mexico has been proven possible repeatedly in major tournaments and friendlies. Beating European and quality South American teams is a much a more tantalizing objective.

    More matches played in Mexico would also help, but it must be stated that Mexico doesn’t wish to lose their only advantage remaining- the intimidation factor of polluted, high altitude Mexico City Azteca matches.

    The game against a full strength Spain over the summer will be a much more important benchmark for the U.S. than another Mexico friendly.

  2. Sorry to denigrate the game… I’m just frustrated that we’re playing this team for the third time in a year and a half on US soil.

    We know we can beat them consistently on US soil.

    I’m just calling this event what it is — a marketing gimmick. It would be quite a different statement to say that we can beat Mexico anywhere anytime, including on their own soil in front of a full stadium of diehard fans. Even so, Hugo’s right, its more important to show progress against Brazil and Argentina.

    Last summer Mexico had a standout performance against Brazil, beating them 2-0 in a competitive match. That’s what I want the US to do — play joga bonita in a competitive tournament and beat Brazil 2-0. That’s the day I’m looking forward to.

    Luis Bueno pointed out that we could be playing Argentina tomorrow night, even if it’s their B-team. I would rather we play Argentina if they’re available than schedule yet another match against Mexico.

  3. Yes the games are played in the US…but they aren’t “home” games. At best you can call them nuetral.

    Mexican fans always outnumber US fans in these games so using that as an excuse doesn’t hold water…

  4. “Mexican Soccer Coach Hugo Sanchez Dons a Kevlar Vest To Protect Himself from Mexican Fans in the event he suffers another embarrassing loss to the USMNT.”

  5. I agree with Eugene that Mexico is only a benchmark for the US. They had a better Copa America than we did. So, we obviously have a long way to go.

    (I know, we did not take our best team, but the performance still counts against us in FIFA rankings. Assuming we get to the next World Cup, are results like the Copa going to determine whether we are a seeded team or not?)

    We need to beat Mexico as many times as possible to help with rankings and a possible seed in the World Cup. At the same time, US Soccer made a big mistake in agreeing to the Copa and sending down a weak team. It has hurt us in the rankings, while Mexico did well.

  6. Can we please start referring to the US as “the Gringos” much as Spurs (though I hate them) fans co-opted “Yids”? I’d think that Sam’s Army singing Viva los Gringos to the tune of Viva Las Vegas would do much to get Mexico fans worked up.

  7. Can we please start referring to the US as “the Gringos” much as Spurs (though I hate them) fans co-opted “Yids”? I’d think that Sam’s Army singing Viva los Gringos to the tune of Viva Las Vegas would do much to get Mexico fans worked up.

  8. I think the reason the tone of the Mexican team is changing is because all the new crop of mexican players remember is the US being on par with Mexico. Therefore they don’t have the same superiority complex that the older generation suffers from. In my mind this is one of the major reasons we’ve been able to beat them so regularly of late, so our run could be coming to an end with the new attitude in the Mexican camp. That said I think over the next 10 years the USA-MEX games will rise to new levels as these players on both sides of the border develop.

  9. @jhamp8305

    In my opinion there is no better bar in the US to watch a football match than Nevada Smith’s, it’s one of the things I miss most about NYC. Definitely watch the game there!

  10. Caption – “Do theeeth panths make my ath look fat?”

    As for the game itself, it’s a no-brainer – the US will will 3-0 and continue the dominance over Mexico. Will we ever be able to schedule a “friendly” in El Azteca so that we can get our young guys used to playing there so we can begin our dominance on THEIR home soil?

  11. @blake

    Damn, I didn’t know Reliant was that big! That’s awesome it’ll be a sellout. For a team like the Dynamo that has won the last two MLS Cups and who perhaps has a downtown stadium on the way (cross your fingers) it would be great if they could attract some of the soccer fans from international games to the Houston MLS matches.

  12. i think eugene makes a strong comment, but it’s US/MEX. It wouldn’t be the same without the hoopla and the hype. I slightly disagree with the mice and cheese comment…a bit denigrating. there’s something to be said for being a giant in your region, and while CONCACAF is not CONMEBOL or UEFA, with the coming revelation of talent in the US and Mexico it’s a matter of “if” not “when” CONCACAF starts earning it stripes on the global stage. by the way, i’m new to NYC. Trying to find a good spot to watch the game tomorrow. I live in Williamsburg so anything out there would be great. Otherwise I reckon I’ll head to Nevada Smith’s?

  13. Maybe I’ve been around here too long but that photo was already a subject of a “You Write the Caption” feature in the past.

  14. Nick (3:42 PM) –

    A quick H-town response to your question…the Dynamo play in Robertson stadium which seats right at 30k, and average in the range of 16/18k per match.

    This US/Mex match is in Reliant Stadium which seats a hair over 70,000. When they played here in 2003, it sold 69k+ tickets (it was a sell-out, the stadium was slightly expanded for the 2005 SuperBowl).

    The last I’ve seen is that the game has sold between 55k and 60k tickets to date, and is on pace to sell-out (due to the traditional heavy-walk up purchases in Houston).

    The place will be rocking. I was there in ’03 and even though it was 0-0, it was one of the greatest sporting experiences of my life. Hopefully, tomorrow will be even better!

    And as for advertising…at least I’ll be wearing my Dynamo orange.

  15. Ives,

    Hugo told ESPN yesterday that the games against the US don’t matter to him and he doesn’t care if Mexico loses, because being better than the US is not his goal. He further stated that he wants to bring Mexico to the level of Brazil and Argentina, and that those are the games where he truly considers wins and losses to be important, because they are the measuring stick that Mexico is aspiring to, not the US.

    After his response, even the reporter (John Sutcliffe I believe it was) said: but do you really think that that’s how the rest of Mexico feels?

    To which he avoided the question and responded identically as before.

    Quite an about face from last year. Hugo has become a good politician and is certainly hedging his bets now…

  16. All the soccer media attention paid to this game is silly. US vs. Mexico is like two starving mice fighting over a small piece of cheese in the corner of a large room.

    Its time we move beyond debating who’s better, us or Mexico, and look towards improving vs. the top national soccer teams in the world.

  17. Nick,

    Last year at Reliant, the Dynamo FO bundled the HOU/LAG game into the first part of a doubleheader with the main event being Club America v. Barca. Like the USMNT game will probably do, it attracted 70,000+ people. In my opinion, there’s not a whole lot else you can do to attract the casual fan to MLS besides building a nice, shiny SSS or signing a big-name DP (no cap room for that at the moment). With the best Mexican league players already making close to Euro-like salaries, it’ll be hard to replicate that here. All that being said, I’d be surprised if there was no advertising presence there tomorrow.

  18. IIves,

    Can it be that Mexico is finally given USA Team Respect. It sounds like they are finally coming into this game knowing that the United States can play.
    But them again if you check some Mexican web site………. like… they quote players talking trash… but over all i think we finally got their respect………… Well i cant wait to see Altidore and Adu……….. !!! Lets Go USA!

  19. I can be an idiot and have grammatical errors, thats fine w/ me.
    I’m just looking out for the man in charge. =]
    If you or Ives or anyone else wants to use “more sweeter”… you’re free to do so. It kinda rolls off the tongue.

  20. Ives, the heading… ‘game’

    And yes, beating Mexico is ever more sweeter after having to hear all the trash talk… although it’ll still be nice no matter what when we win.

  21. Hi Ives,

    Thanks for the update. Question for you, I’m not sure you’ll know the answer, but it’s worth a shot. You said that this game is looking like it will sell out in Houston, which will be at least 50,000 people I would assume. Given that the Dynamo usually attract lower than 20,000 supporters at a game, does the Dynamo front office plan on doing any advertising at this game as a cross promotion to try and get US or Mexico fans to come to Houston games in the future? Seems like it would be a missed opportunity if they don’t. Do MLS teams normally advertise at USMNT games when they play in MLS cities that you are aware of?

  22. Is it just me? Or does this photo scream for a “You Write The Caption”?

    Something like: See guys. If I was Lord of the Dance, this is how I’d do it.


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