The USA and Mexico are definitely more than “just friends.” The long and passionate romance began many years ago when that imaginary line was drawn in the sand and connected to a river. The storied tale has produced classic material for all concerned, such as: the War on Drugs, Spanglish, tequila, Pancho Villa, anti-immigrant sentiment, Taco Bell, cheap labor, Menudo (the breakfast and the band), Salma Hayek, La Eme, Cinco de Mayo, family hardship, Manny’s Beach Club, The Most Interesting Man in the World, Battle of the Alamo, and piñatas. But now an epic custody battle rages over a ninety (90) minute game that many Americans still believe is for “foreigners.” That’s right, soccer (or “fútbol,” if you want to be elitist about it) is the latest issue born out of wedlock deserving of more attention. America must abide if we wish to serve our best interests.
This Wednesday (Aug. 10) at 9 p.m. EST, the US squares off against Mexico on ESPN2 in an international friendly of epic proportions. Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA will be the site for this match-up, and nearly 70,000 will be in attendance. The National Team will be playing their first game since replacing former head coach, Bob Bradley, with Jurgen Klinsmann on July 29, 2011. Although Klinsmann was formally introduced as the team’s leader on August 1, 2011, during a Press Conference at NIKETOWN, he had been considered for the position twice before. It was not until a pitiful 4-2 loss against Mexico in the Gold Cup final, however, that US Soccer officials opted to sever Bradley’s new contract extension that was to last through 2014.
The announcement came just days after the US Soccer Federation renewed its long-standing contracts with Kwik Goal and Official Sports International. New agreements give both companies rights through 2014 as “Technical Partners” of US Soccer. This designation allows each organization to be fully integrated in the training process and improvement of the US National Team by developing products to meet the needs of the team, referees, and the newly appointed coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.
As a standout German National Team player and coach, Klinsmann is expected to produce great results for the US. While Klinsmann’s aim to gain extensive authority over the entire US Soccer program had been an obstacle for the US Federation in the past, both parties have apparently reached a happy medium for moving forward. As Pele stated, “He is an experienced coach and a great former player. Without a doubt, he can be a very good coach because of his international experience.”
In fact, Klinsmann scored eleven (11) goals in three (3) World Cups (1990, 1994, and 1998) for Germany, which ranks him tied for sixth (6th) place on the all-time scoring list. After retiring and moving to the United States in 1998, Klinsmann became the coach of the German National Team in July 2004. He led his country to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup and ended his coaching stint with a 20-8-6 record in thirty-four (34) games overall.
Hold the phone, though. Real talk for just a second. The last time that the US took on Mexico, they were spanked up and down the field like a bunch of schoolboys. Yes, after taking a 2-0 lead midway through the first half of the Gold Cup Championship, I watched professionals give up four (4) unanswered goals. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement – the loss ruined my night.
Now the time has come for the US to redeem itself. Today’s game will undoubtedly be full of pace, excitement, and high expectations. Mexico is no doubt a formidable opponent. With Javier Hernandez (“Chicharito”) and Rafael Marquez on the pitch, Mexico offers some of the most talented rising stars and solid, proven veterans.
It is extremely important that the US starts off on the right foot with Klinsmann as their coach. Said Klinsmann, “It’s come a long way, soccer in the United States, and I have an opportunity to build it further. I think there are a lot of different challenges ahead of us, especially on the foundation level and the foundation is youth.” Well, that’s certainly the truth, but the time is now. Klinsmann has much to prove under the circumstances. Perhaps the US men and their German coach should heed advice from the Brazilians…Joga Bonito.