Take one look at the headline to this blog post and you’ll know why MLS players — and others around the world such as those in the English Premier league, which starts Saturday — have absolutely no interest in this silliest of FIFA international FIFA dates.
“It’s an awkward fixture date,” said the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan before departing for Mexico. “Almost all the players don’t like this fixture date. We’d much rather do away with it.”
Which thankfully is likely to happen next year.
But for now Southern California soccer fans will have to juggle the timing of the Mexico-U.S.-friendly (5 p.m. ESPN2 and Univision) with the start of the Columbus Crew-Galaxy affair (4 p.m. NBC Sports Network), which is sure to be an emotional, galvanizing evening for the hosts and also feature a reunion with one familiar face.
The U.S., which has never won on Mexican soil, is unlikely to start now in a nation still feeding off the euphoria of an Olympic gold medal (players will reportedly be introduced to the crowd before the game), but at least Jurgen Klinsmann has compensated for that as much as possible by selecting a a half dozen players who regularly ply their trade south of the border.
“Any time we play in Azteca it’s pretty raucous, I think it will be a pretty exciting night,” Donovan said. “We’ve been saying for a number of years now how good the youth is in their country and how well they’re producing players, their ’17s, they’re ’20s and now their Olympic team. The future certainly looks bright for them and it’s going to be a good test for us.”
It will be for younger players who have never seen a crowd like this one, so in that respect this “meaningless” game could actually be quite helpful in exposing players to the atmosphere before a World Cup qualifier is played there.
“In Germany there are just a few stadiums that are close to this big,” said defender Fabian Johnson. “In Dortmund, there is a stadium that holds 80,000. I think Jurgen said this one holds about 110,000. That’s crazy. I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that. I’m happy to be here and not a lot of players get to play in front of this big of a crowd.”
Make sure you have fresh batteries in that remote control.