Two nations, intertwined with many moments throughout time that have stirred a wide range of emotions. Amidst cultural and political differences, two nations whose histories have each witnessed the brightest of victories, and darkest of defeats, and even a reliance upon each other to spur on what is a rivalry by the broadest definition of the term.
On Saturday, October 10, the United States and Mexico open the latest chapter of epic encounters. The opportunity to represent the CONCACAF region will once more be on the line as the winner will advance to the dress rehearsal of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2017 Confederations Cup. And, as always, the storylines for this match alone is enough to produce plenty of drama on and off the pitch.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) October 8, 2015
The CONCACAF Cup is seen as many things to many people. For passionate American fans, this is seen as an ultimatum for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to right the USA’s ship after what was a poor Gold Cup 2015 performance-wise. For the first time since 2000, the Yanks finished outside the top three in the Gold Cup. Jamaica shocked the Americans in the semifinals and Panama bested a paltry USA in penalties in the third-place match. Despite victories over Germany and the Netherlands in European friendlies, glaring defeats in the Gold Cup as well as very questionable personnel decisions have damaged the mindsets of supporters, journalists, players and even former players. Klinsmann’s job won’t be in jeopardy anytime soon, but at most other places in modern soccer, this current run of form would cost him his job.
Mexico’s Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera, the fiery and very expressive manager, was sacked just after El Tri won the Gold Cup. Herrera’s changing tactics and formations throughout the tournament may have kept Mexican players on their toes, but the team itself struggled with the outcome in 2 matches hinging on questionable decisions by the referee. Nevertheless, El Tri won the tournament with their best match coming against Jamaica in the final.
Herrera was feeling the pressure of a Mexican media that wanted him out as El Tri themselves seemed destined to falter in the Gold Cup going in after stagnant showings in the build-up. “El Piojo” didn’t end his managerial stint punching the air in celebration, he ended it by punching a rival who happened to be a reporters’ face, a result of letting his emotions get the best of him.
— CONCACAF CUP (@GoldCup) October 5, 2015
Klinsmann has never lost against Mexico as a manager US in six games, though the morale around US Soccer’s supporters feel as though they should axe him if his team goes into the Rose Bowl and leaves out without a win. The US will have most of their players from recent call-ups returning, including Jozy Altidore, who got back into scoring form for the US in a 2-1 win over Peru after being dropped from the Gold Cup team in the knockout round. Gold Cup Golden Boot winner Clint Dempsey is also on the 23-man roster for the Americans, with Michael Bradley and Tim Howard on the list, Howard returning from a year out with the National Team. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, brought in as an interim coach, will have to deal with the loss of a couple star players for a matchup of this magnitude. Rafael Marquez and Giovani Dos Santos are listed as out with injuries, though Andres Guardado’s condition has improved after starting for PSV Eindhoven in their 2-1 win over Eredivisie derby foe Ajax. The banter and advertisements leading into the game has especially been every bit as big as the play on the pitch itself. Among them, YouTube user Cesar Chavez uploaded this TV Azteca ad with Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump (not exactly a supporter of Mexico) having one of his speeches edited to say “We don’t have victories anymore” against Mexico, though the USA haven’t lost to El Tri since 2011.
Even from a kit standpoint, the two teams are wearing uniforms from two rival companies. The USA have kits from Nike, while Mexico have kits from adidas. Going by this promotional image with Clint Dempsey, the US will wear their usual white home kit with grey pinhoops and red trim, with the Mexicans sticking with their primary black kits with gray, light green and red details. Both teams will wear CONCACAF Cup Badges on their sleeves.
— CONCACAF CUP (@GoldCup) October 6, 2015
A sold out crowd at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, filled with both Mexican and American fans at Pasadena, will bear witness to what will be a fiery encounter. A ticket to Russia to face the champions of the other confederations await the winners of the last two Gold Cups in the CONCACAF Cup playoff.