US-Mexico 2: Once Again, It’s On

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: August 26, 2005

Jermain Taylor won a split decision over Bernard Hopkins Saturday.

Memin Penguin: Here’s what they think about you(AP)

MIAMI, FLA.—Let’s be real for a second.

As they sit comfortable ahead of the pack at 1-2 in the standings for the final round of qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Mexico and the US, respectively are virtually assured of qualifying. So the second meeting of this

Hexagonal Round in Columbus, OH next Saturday night (September 3, 7:30pm on Telemundo) really won’t mean much.

Just don’t tell the players and the fans of each side that.

For the United States, it’ll be a chance to get some “get back…pay back” after their lackluster 2-1 loss to El Tri in Mexico City back in March. In that match, the US came out conservatively and without the necessary passion and commitment needed to snap their 21 match losing streak in Estadio Azteca. Some defensive miscues staked Mexico to a 2-0 first half lead which they could have and maybe should have added to in the 2nd half. The US, however has been quite effective since then. They haven’t dropped any points in World Cup Qualifiers and used a relatively inexperienced side to capture their third Gold Cup, making them champions of the CONCACAF region’s bi-annual tournament.

As of this writing, the squad list has not been released yet but two important names for the US will probably be missing. DaMarcus Beasley has been nursing an injury picked up in the Gold Cup Final and Eddie Johnson has just been getting back into playing shape after a stress fracture injury to his toe.

That in itself is too bad because given the apparant attitudes the Mexican goverment towards Blacks, especially with the issuance of a stamp that depicts a Black character (Memin Penguin) in primate persona while his mother is the spitting image of Aunt Jemima, it would have been nice to see some of the Black players inflict some pain on the Mexican populace by scoring goals and dominating play. Perhaps, Oguchi Onyewu, who has been playing very well for the US since that nervous first half in Mexico City, Cory Gibbs, if he’s not injured Eddie Pope or even MLS’ leading scorer Jeff Cunningham can pick up the slack.

The Mexicans have dropped only two points during this qualifying round, by virtue of a 1-1 draw in Panama City at the end of March. They come into this match boasting a deserved win over Brazil in the Confederations Cup and playing very tight with Germany and Argentina before losing both games. However they also come in with some turmoil. Two of their players were given a year’s suspension for doping after positive test results following the Brazil match. The head coach, Ricardo LaVolpe, has been constantly criticized by personal foe, the great Hugo Sanchez, and players such as Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Francisco Palencia, who have been left out of the squad.

Both teams’ sets of fans are geared up and ready for this one as well. Columbus Crew Stadium has long been sold out for this match and the fans there will try to recreate the atmosphere of 4 years ago when the US beat Mexico 2-0 on a frigid February night. A lot of US fans have releshed the chance to play the Mexicans at sea level where the US haven’t lost to them in eight years.

For their part, Mexican fans have already marked this match down in the win column, citing their recent victory over Brazil as proof of their superiority. Of course they haven’t actually WON anything yet. In fact one joker on Big Soccer recently began a forum thread entitled, “Excuses by US fans after Mexico wins in Columbus” forgetting that Mexico has not beaten the US in a World Cup qualifier north of the border in over 15 years. I’m sorry, have those chickens hatched yet?

So once again, it’s on. The only team that regularly represents this country taking on its most bitter rival on an American holiday weekend with sporting, cultural and racial undertones waiting to erupt in the middle of the country. An entire country south of the Rio Grande ready to erupt in front of their TVs and radios while a sold out stadium north of that boundary will be ready to make their Mexican guests feel very unwelcome.

If the US wins, they qualify for the 2006 World Cup with three matches to spare. Same for Mexico if they get at least a tie.

Another superclassico ready to unfold in Northern Ohio.