FOXBORO, Mass. – Maybe it was his first-half golazo that staked the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Maybe it was the fact that the win was LA’s fifth in six games. Whatever it was, Landon Donovan was feeling confident on the eve of reporting to the United States National Team camp in Miami ahead of next Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier in Mexico.
“We’re not going [to Mexico City] for a point,” Donovan said. “We’re going there to win the game and we’re going to keep playing the way we’re playing.”
One can assume Donovan meant the form of the U.S. squad that reached the final of the Confederations Cup in June, not the one that lost 5-0 to Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup last month.
“I was sitting on my bed, not too happy,” Donovan said about how he felt while watching the Gold Cup defeat. “I think the frustrating part was the naivete to let it get away like that. Because there are implications beyond just losing that game. There are historical implications, confidence implications for them and for us, and it made it a little more difficult on everybody in U.S. soccer.”
The trophy provided El Tri, currently in fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, with a massive boost ahead of the U.S. game. Not that they needed it. Mexico has never lost to the U.S. at Azteca Stadium; the two have shared the points only once, a scoreless draw in a World Cup qualifier in 1997.
“The difficulty [of playing at Azteca] is everything but the soccer,” Donovan said. “They use all of the outside influences to their advantage but that’s not an excuse anymore for us. We’re not going to use it as an excuse.”
The Los Angeles captain, who had refused to talk about the Mexico game all week while he was still with his club, went further in his explanation of el Tri’s home-field advantage. He explicitly declared that Azteca is the only place the Mexicans have an advantage.
“When we play Mexico anywhere else in the world, I have no doubt we beat them,” he said.
That could be true—until this year’s Gold Cup final, the U.S. had not lost to Mexico outside of Mexico City since 1999—but unfortunately for Donovan, the game is not anywhere else in the world. It’s at Azteca.
Greg Lalas, Goal.com
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