Pressure is on Mexico to beat United States in CONCACAF Cup
LOS ANGELES -- Nobody here is in any doubt as to which side is under pressure, but pressure in soccer is no bad thing, as long as you can find ways to use it to your advantage. To beat the United States, Mexico will need to play good football and will also need a large dose of personality and spirit.
The pressure is, almost entirely, on Mexico.
The media in the U.S. is still occupied with the start of the American football season (the NFL that changes them and inspires genuine outbreaks of passion) and perhaps also with the start of the Major League Baseball postseason. Landon Donovan, the legendary former U.S. international and one of the "fathers" of the soccer rivalry between the two nations, has gone on the offensive in search of a reaction: "If the U.S. fails to beat Mexico, Klinsmann should resign," said the former L.A. Galaxy player.
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But even he has failed to generate much interest around a federation that always respects plans and projects and whose development is largely based around continuity. The game, the U.S.-Mexico match, means something but not on the same scale as it is perceived among Mexicans. I guess that, sooner or later, that same feeling filters down to the players.
One of Mexico's biggest advantages is their coach, even if he only has the job on an interim basis. The mustachioed Ricardo Ferretti tends to enjoy these types of games. With no change in his heart rate, without a sigh and with a steady hand, "Tuca" will make decisions with the coolness and the passion that he is famed for. The same is expected of veterans such as Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado, Oribe Peralta and Moises Munoz. Ferretti has picked them so they can bring every ounce of their experience to this do-or-die game.
I remember the days when "nothing" happened -- when there was no great backlash -- if the United States lost a soccer match. That is no more thanks to the general growth that soccer has experienced in this country, but it is still a very different atmosphere to that which surrounds the game in Mexico, where we sometimes have other emotions wrapped up in a soccer match. And I've got to tell it like it is: It's not about surrounding the game in a flag, in a nationalist tone, in the huge differences and the many similarities between the two countries. It's not about immigration or politics.
It's a soccer match; a simple, trivial, banal, entertaining soccer match. There's a prized ticket to the Confederations Cup on the line, that much is true. There's a great deal of sporting pride at stake, that's also true, and nobody is in any doubt that Mexico are the side under pressure. They need to take that pressure and turn it into an ally on the pitch.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.