GUADALAJARA, Mexico – US national team defender Michael Orozco claims that FC Dallas striker Blas Pérez and other Panama players asked him and his US teammates to slow down on Tuesday to make sure Los Canaleros secured the victory that would’ve sent them through to a playoff with New Zealand and leave Mexico out of the World Cup.
The United States scored twice deep into injury time on Tuesday to win the game 3-2, break Panamanian hearts and earn gushing thanks from the Mexican press and El Tri fans.
“In the stadium all the people were shouting and Blas even said to me, ‘Drop back, no?’” the Puebla defender told Univisión on Wednesday on his return to Mexico. “But we had to play. This is soccer and the team that wins, wins.
“The truth is I couldn’t give him or Mexico a hand, we wanted to play our game.”
Orozco got his team’s opener in the 64th minute and is confident he will receive a better reaction in the country where he is based than the first time he netted for the United States – back in August 2012 to secure the Stars and Stripes’ first-ever win against Mexico in Estadio Azteca.
“A year ago I was one of the most hated [figures in Mexico] for my goal in the Aztecazo, but I think things have turned around and now I’m one of the more liked,” he said with a laugh, with rumors swirling that American players in Mexico may just get an especially warm reception in games this weekend.
In the same interview, Orozco added that Pérez wasn’t the only Panamanian asking for the US to take the foot of the gas and that at the end of the game, Los Canaleros were “destroyed,” although he was more focused on what it meant for him and his country.
“At the end of the day it is a game of football, it is played for 90 minutes and you have to take advantage,” said the California native. “We didn’t think about helping Mexico, just playing our game so that we were satisfied.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.