OBETZ, Ohio – Like the country they represent, the US national team participated in Tuesday's elections in a variety of ways. Some voted – via early or absentee methods due to their visit to Ohio this week – and some did not. Some stayed up late watching the returns; others went to bed for their usual night's sleep.
All, however, expressed a belief that Friday night's momentous World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico (7:45 pm ET; FS1, Univision) will not be affected by the current political climate and called for respect and unity among the players and fans at MAPFRE Stadium.
“I would hope that our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible,” said US captain Michael Bradley before Wednesday morning's training session.
“I would hope that they give every person in that stadium the respect that they deserve, whether they're American, Mexican, neutral, men, women, children. I would hope that every person who comes to the stadium comes ready to enjoy what we all want to be a beautiful game between two sporting rivals that – again – have a lot of respect for each other. I hope that it's a special night in every way.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was named the starter by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, took a practical approach to the election and the results.
“I went to bed," the Colorado Rapids star said. "They count the votes, and they told me who’s president in the morning."
Throughout the presidential campaign, immigration and relations with Mexico burned particularly hotly, and it's tempting to put additional meaning on the upcoming US-Mexico match. Asked whether Donald Trump's electoral victory might influence Friday's rivalry clash with El Tri, Howard shrugged it off.
“That's politics, and this is football," he said. "Mexico is going to try to kick our asses and we’re going to try and kick theirs. It’s got nothing to do with politics.”
And Bradley called for unity on Friday.
“Given the way everything has gone the last few months, I think there is an added layer to this game,” the Toronto FC midfielder said. “But my general feeling is that we as Americans, we trust our system, we respect our democracy and – regardless of your beliefs, regardless of how you voted – we have an obligation to come together, to get behind our new president and to have faith and trust that he will do what's best for the entire country. That's what we've always done.”
Bradley said he watched televised election coverage “closely” on Tuesday night. His status as a veteran professional and family man made him particularly interested in the process, he said.
“I stayed up for a long time and watched it," the 29-year-old said. "The whole thing has been incredibly captivating. I'm not as old as some of you [media members] -- not yet -- but there's been some interesting elections in my lifetime.
“In moments like this, it's easy to question things. But again, this is what makes our country great: the fact that we have a system where yesterday every American could go and vote. The results may not be what every person wanted. Some people are happy; some people aren't. But again, the way forward is to come together and to give our new president support and rally behind him, and have the faith that he will continue what, ultimately, I believe every president has always done: make decisions that are good for the country."