Wil Trapp - US national team - striking ball vs. Ireland
John Dorton-ISI Photos

Young US squad vow to "make our own mark" on famous rivalry with Mexico

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Facing Mexico is nothing new for many of the young US men’s national team players on the roster for the first two games of what U.S. Soccer has dubbed the “Kickoff Series.”

But that was in youth international play. On Tuesday in Nashville, most in a roster with the average age of 23 years of age will get their first taste of the rivalry on the senior level.

“For most of us we’ve never played in this game,” Columbus Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp said. “It will be fun to step on the field. We’ve watched the rivalries, we felt them whether in the stadium or at the youth level or on TV. We know the history, so now it’s to make our own mark on it.”

Following a 2-0 loss to Brazil at MetLife Stadium Friday night, the match against Mexico at Nissan Stadium (8:30 pm ET | ESPN, Univision) will have a decidedly different feel to it.

“We all know the history between our team and Mexico for all the previous years in games. It’s going to add a whole different look than Brazil,” USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan said. “It’s a rival we’ve had and will continue to have.

“The game speaks for itself: USA-Mexico, always a rival, always going to be a very intense game. Again, we’re going to use that experience, for sure, in Nashville to further this group along because that’s the team in our region we’re going to have to compete with.”

Like the USMNT, El Tri have a younger look for their first post-World Cup friendlies. Interim coach Ricardo Ferretti has called in 15 players under the age of 25. That group fell to Uruguay, 4-1, in Houston Friday night.

That means players on both sides of the rivalry will get their first chance to make a first impression and bounce back from a Friday night loss. 

“It will be big,” defender Matt Miazga said. “Obviously every game now on the national team everyone is trying to impress, everyone is trying to establish themselves. Mexico is going to provide another good test. It’s a good rivalry, a big history there so it’s going to an extra edge over there.”

Kellyn Acosta is one of the few players with previous experience against El Tri. In a World Cup qualifier last June, the Colorado Rapids midfielder started alongside Michael Bradley in a 1-1 draw at Estadio Azteca.

While the atmosphere will be different, and decidedly more pro-US, in Nashville, Acosta expects an intense showdown.

“Everyone is eager and ready,” Acosta said. “I know some of the guys who played in Mexico at the youth ranks and playing on the senior level is a different story. But I know everyone is ready to take the torch and run with it.”

That the match is being played on Sept. 11 also carries additional significance for Trapp, who spoke to first responders when the team visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Thursday.

“The motivation’s implicit in the game. It’s against Mexico in the United States. It’s a huge game for us,” Trapp noted. “The symbolism of that day will certainly have a lot of emotion wrapped into it.”