PHILADELPHIA — With a Gold Cup final rematch on tap for Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field (8:30 pm ET; ESPN2, Univisión), it’s no surprise that the players and coaches of the US national team have nothing but Mexico on the mind.
Speaking to the media Tuesday from the Nova Care Center, the training ground of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, everyone from former US Soccer greats to the newest face in camp have their sights trained on El Tri.
“It’s exciting playing Mexico right after the Gold Cup final,” said head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who is presiding over his inaugural training camp with the Yanks. “It’s exciting because you have an opponent that has improved tremendously over the last couple of years. They have brought in a lot of highly talented young players through their ranks and now they belong in the top 10 in the world.”
For former US captain Claudio Reyna, the US youth soccer technical director who has been a presence at training sessions this week, the competition with Mexico goes far beyond Wednesday's friendly. It even reaches beyond the two national teams.
“Our focus is to compete with Mexico and we’ve done that,” said Reyna, who cites Real Salt Lake’s recent CONCACAF Champions League run as an extension of the rivalry. “I think we’re the two best teams [in CONCACAF] and now our league is starting to compete with theirs. They have a strong league and that could be the first short-term goal.”
One member of a sizable contingent of US players who ply their trade in Mexico is late arrival DeMarcus Beasley. Having traveled to Philadelphia from Puebla on day two of training, the former Chicago Fire midfielder doesn’t feel that playing in Mexico will give him a leg up when playing against Mexico.
“It won’t make it any easier, I’ll tell you that,” said Beasley.
He does, however, concede that being behind enemy lines does have its advantages.
“You get more of a sense of their style, how they play,” Beasley explained. “You only see it on TV, but I kind of live it and breath it down there. Every team kind of has the same style: Keep the ball. Keep the ball and don’t lose it. And that’s how the Mexican national team is. They’re hard to get the ball from when they have it, but I’m sure Jurgen has a great plan for us though.”
And just what is Klinsmann’s plan?
“We want to show them that we can compete with them,” he says. “We’re going to give them a fight.”