The U.S. star says rival fans may not like his national team when it competes against Mexico but they respect what the Americans have done in soccer.Despite Mexico and the United States being heated rivals on the soccer field, U.S. star Landon Donovan believes there is a growing mutual respect between the CONCACAF powerhouses.
The series between the two teams will continue on Wednesday, as the U.S. looks to win its first game on Mexico soil after going 0-23-1 south of the border.
"I think the Mexican people know this game very well. They have respect for all players around the world who have been successful. So I think they appreciate that we've come so far [in terms of soccer development] in this country," Donovan explained to Goal.com.
"They might not like us during the 90 minutes that we're playing against each other but they can respect and appreciate us for what we're doing."
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has said on several occasions that winning this week's match in Mexico City's Stadio Azteca is a priority for his team's confidence.
But beating Mexico on its home turf will not be easy. El Tri's focus on youth development over the past six years has resulted in a spell of dominance in almost all competitions, including the 2012 Olympics, where the U-23 team brought home a gold medal earlier this month.
Mexico's national pool features young starlets who are coveted by some of Europe's elite clubs including Barcelona and Real Madrid. Aside from their "B" team's poor performance in the Copa America last year, El Tri has also won the 2011 Gold Cup, the Pan American games and the 2011 U-17 World Cup.
Mexico's 4-2 victory against the U.S. in last year's Gold Cup, as it rallied from two goals down, sent a clear message to the Stars and Stripes that the team is the best in the region. Donovan admits the loss was a difficult one but he is looking to move on.
"It didn't leave the best taste in our mouths but that's long gone for me," Donovan said. "Every time we play them, it always exciting regardless of what happened in the previous term."
If there is one positive that comes from the rivalry between both teams, it could be that one team's success over the other forces improvement in policy. Victories for the U.S. in the 2002, 2005 and 2007 Gold Cups necessitated the need for Mexico to improve its youth academies in the domestic league. The United States used that momentum to finish as a runner up in the Confederations Cup and top its group in the 2010 World Cup.
When the U.S. conceded four goals in the Gold Cup final against Mexico, the United States Soccer Federation made drastic changes, finally deciding to pin its futures on a foreign manager in Klinsmann. The former star striker overhauled Germany's youth structure during his run as manager between 2004 and 2006 and is starting to implement changes to the U.S.
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Donovan spoke with Goal.com as part of Gatorade's Beat The Heat campaign, which hopes to educate more athletes on hydrating properly. For more details, check out some information here.