Tonight, the United States will face Mexico in Mexico City's cavernous Estadio Azteca, a 105,000 seat stadium that hosted the 1986 World Cup Final. The US has won only one match in this stadium, an ugly 1-0 scoreline last summer when the Mexicans were emotionally and physically depleted after their Olympic triumph over Brazil.
That 1-0 affair was a "friendly," to use the parlance of the sport, but these battles are anything but. In past World Cup Qualifying matches, US players have been pelted with everything from batteries to beer glasses filled with vomit. The stadium sits at 7,100 feet above sea level in the Teotihuacan Valley, the polluted caldera of Mexico City, with temperatures soaring to 100+ degrees and oxygen required before, during and after the game. It is, without question, a hellish place to play a football match.
For more than 50 years, the Mexicans dominated us, beating us time and time again. It is telling, for example, that the United States did not host a World Cup until 1994, eight years after our cousins to the south. This was their sport. Was. Until the US defeated Mexico in 2002 in the World Cup round of 16, Dos a Cero.
Without getting completely lost in in the woods by how jazzed I am for this game, it suffices to say that the rivalry is now very real. Mexico and the United States are equals on the soccer field, and it makes for some tense, exciting stuff. Check out the trailer for the film by Pablo Miralles, Michael Wahlen, and Roberto Donati and then watch the US v Mexico in what I hope will not be another lopsided victory for El Tri in the Azteca.