Now that the USMNT vs Mexico match April 2nd has been officially confirmed, we can mark it as the most exciting World Cup lead up match that the US will play.
Sure, they will play some exciting games to be announced later and we might see the almighty Zlatan grace us with his presence.
Rumor has it that the Bay Area might even get a US game, which I do believe officially confirms that there will in fact be six more weeks of winter. Or that the apocalypse has, in fact, been scheduled for later this year, just after the World Cup, as Mother Nature or whomever has control over things like that wants to see how exactly Group G plays out. Can you blame them? It’s been almost 7 years since the US played in the Bay Area, and also seven years since a fateful US – Mexico showdown.
February 7th, 2007 brought US – Mexico to Phoenix Stadium, the same location where we will see the two bitter rivals matched up this year. It was a highly anticipated match up, in a year that was critical for US Soccer with both the Gold Cup that summer and World Cup qualifying on the horizon for the 2010 World Cup. Playing in front of a rather pro-Mexico crowd meant it would be a stiff test for the Americans. I remember nervously watching the first half as both teams struggled to get anything going. Early in the second half, the Kick TV man, Jimmy Conrad nodded home what was likely his biggest goal in a US shirt with a brilliant snap header off an inch perfect Donovan corner. Tim Howard made a big save or two, and then came the moment that truly defined why I dislike Mexico’s national team so much.
With only moments to go, a Mexican defender is near midfield, and plays the ball across the back toward a teammate. Instead he manages to pick off the referee, depositing the ball at the feet of Landon Donovan.
Donovan breaks. This is full speed ahead, all systems go, blazing like four stoners in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on 4/20 Landon. He splits both center backs, breaks on goal and takes one look back to make sure he is clear (which he is by about 5 yards, unfortunately he didn’t give the chasing defender the ol neener neener neener thumb in nose wave too) and fakes out Oswaldo Sanchez, cuts left past him, and finishes calmly.
Boom! AMERICA! Bald eagles emerge from the sky and come land on his shoulders while beautiful surfer girls beckon him to join them in the ocean right? Almost.
As Landon races to celebrate, high speed Eddie Johnson zips through the box to join him, and as he does, Sanchez tries to trip Johnson. He almost does, catching a piece of Johnson’s foot knocking him off-balance. At that moment, my blood boils, and I am filled with great disdain for all things related to Mexican soccer. It was fully classless.
The game finishes after Eddie somehow decides not to drop a haymaker to destroy Sanchez, and another Dos A Cero game is in the books. This one had some serious malice though that stayed far beyond the final whistle. I was still upset about what Sanchez tried to do months later, and when the US rallied to beat Mexico in the Gold Cup final it was that much sweeter. There are many great Dos A Cero games in recent memory, but this is one that I will always relish as it helped define why I enjoy US wins over Mexico so much. So even though the scheduling people have frowned at me by placing this match on a Wednesday and even though it is just a friendly, I’m ready, because there are no friendlies when it comes to US – Mexico, just opportunities to crush a rival’s soul and leave them so destroyed that all they can do is fail at cheap shots while the boys in Red White and Blue run past and celebrate.