The two Mexican-based players had complimentary words for El Tri, while affirming that their job is now to catch up to their arch-rival.
The Americans spent much of a post-training exchange with reporters Monday answering questions about Mexico’s ascendancy, and a few couldn’t help but admit that El Tri has pulled ahead in the race for CONCACAF supremacy.
Particularly impressed was the contingent of players based south of the border – six strong in this American squad. Among them, Jose Torres figured the exploits at the Olympic Games would make it even harder for the U.S. to earn its first victory ever at El Azteca on Wednesday.
“I think this Mexico is playing really well, they’ll also be motivated by the championship at the U-23 level, and they’ll be out to show well at home,” Torres said. “Mexico’s been playing very well for the last three years, showing that they’re a complicated team to play. But Wednesday we’re playing them 11 versus 11, and we’re out to play an intelligent game.”
The Pachuca midfielder, who turned down a chance to play in the Olympics with the U.S. four years ago, thinks that after taking the Olympic crown, Mexico could well be considered a top team in the world.
“Mexico could be in the top levels in the world, maybe the top five according to what they’ve shown on the field,” he told a group of reporters. “They’ve played at a very high level, done things very well, and they deserve the recognition they’re getting.”
The feelings for the U.S.’s Mexican-American contingent in some ways also go beyond soccer. Santos forward Herculez Gomez said that in a way, El Tri’s Olympic triumph had transcended the game for him and his family.
“It makes me proud,” Gomez said. “We’re talking about something bigger then soccer. It’s a joy to see my family and friends live this moment. I’ve lived in both cultures, and I’m very proud of the Mexican roots my family has.”
The recent run of success Mexico has had – much of it at the expense of the Americans – has lead the American players to look at El Tri in a different light, Gomez said. At one point last decade, the U.S. looked to have wrested continental dominance from its southern neighbor, but today the thinking is that U.S. can look at El Tri for clues on how to improve its program.
“Of course we look differently at Mexico,” Gomez said. “It begins with attitude. I don’t think 10 years ago Mexican players had this attitude, of wanting to triumph and excel, win so much. It’s impressive. I have the pride of having two teammates [at Santos] on the national team, and I see that it begins with wanting to win something.”
But like Torres, Gomez was quick to point out that his emotions at seeing El Tri’s success continue to be mixed. As a U.S. national team player, both said, their job is to go out and put an end to the Mexican fun on Wednesday night at El Azteca.
“For my teammates, I enjoyed [the Olympic gold],” Gomez said. “That’s the truth. For what it represents to my family, it was great. But we have to be clear, that Mexico continues to be a rival, it’s something we have to look at and be careful with, obviously Mexico’s changed a lot and continues to change.
“Now it’s a rivalry, between two rivals and I’m anxious to get on the field with my national team. The Olympic victory gives me a lot of pride, but now we need to get on the field and play.”
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