Perhaps Mexican soccer and American soccer have more in common than many would believe. As has become the norm with the U.S. national team, a number of Mexico-based Americans are involved in the squad currently in San Pedro Sula, set to face Honduras in the opener of the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.
Jose Torres (Tigres), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna) and Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana) were all called in to the U.S. camp for this quick turnaround match, and traveled to San Pedro Sula with the team on Monday.
The thought could well be that the three could be especially helpful, given their experience playing in similarly hostile environments on the road in the Liga MX.
"I think we’re going to be just fine," said Torres of the pressure sure to await the Americans at the Olympic Stadium. "We’re going to do the best we can to call on the experience we have."
The experience that Mexico-based players have includes some serious rivalry matches in the heated Mexican league. That means that the Liga MX players bring a certain advantage into a clash in a place like Honduras, where opposing fans can be equally difficult to manage, and other factors can weigh in as well.
"When we play on the road we need to be intelligent, to not lose if we can avoid it, and to try to win if we can," the Texas native told reporters.
The mentality of the Mexico-based Americans should also apply to El Tri when it travels south for a crucial clash with Honduras on the second match day of CONCACAF final round qualifying. Mexico has always had trouble in Honduras, but if El Tri manages three points in Wednesday’s opener against Jamaica, as expected, a positive result in Honduras in mid-March could put El Tri well on the road to early qualification for the World Cup.
Still, as Torres notes, perhaps even Mexico shouldn’t expect a walk in the park when it visits San Pedro Sula.
"All the games are going to be complicated, it doesn’t matter where we’re playing. All the games are going to equally difficult for all the teams," Torres said.
But those road-based complications may well prove easier to handle for a team with a foundation of Mexico-based players. In fact, the American team that triumphed for the first time ever at El Azteca last August was built around the Americans’ Mexico-based group. Michael Orozco – now at Puebla but not in the team for the Honduras qualifier - scored the winning goal.
Time will soon tell if this group of Mexican-Americans can help the U.S. manage the difficult road environments in CONCACAF. If so, then the showdown between the U.S. and Mexico at El Azteca in late March becomes all that more interesting.
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