Bruce Arena: “I’m ashamed that there’s perhaps some discord on the political side, but believe me, I think most Americans appreciate the Mexicans that have come to America to make a better future for themselves and their families and the way they have contributed.”
By Michael Lewis
MEXICO CITY — The only wall the United States is thinking about building against Mexico Sunday is a defensive one for a free kick, not an actual one on of the border that President Donald Trump wants between the two countries.
Translated: the Americans are more interested in walking out of Estadio Azteca with a one or three rather than dealing in politics.
“When these guys are bearing down on you, Donald Trump is the last thing on your mind,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said Saturday at the stadium.
Three days after Trump was elected president, the U.S. lost to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the first time El Tri had avoided a dos a cero result at MAPFRE Stadium in five matches in the first game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
In fact, the Mexicans can sweep a home-and-home qualifying series with the Red, White and Blue for the first time since 1972, in qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.
The U.S. enters the match on a three-game unbeaten streak in qualifying since Bruce Arena took over for the fired Jurgen Klinsmann after the November Mexico and Costa Rica losses.
With a victory, the the third-place Americans (2-2-1, 7 points) can move into second place, pending Tuesday night’s result, while a win would boost the first-place Mexicans (4-0-1, 13) to the brink of booking its seventh consecutive World Cup for Russia 2018.
Arena, who has lived in the Los Angeles area since 2008, refused to get into a verbal political battle.
“I think we have the greatest respect for Mexico, its people, its football team,” he said. “I live in Los Angeles. I experience on a daily basis people of Mexican heritage. They’re wonderful people. They contribute greatly to our society in many ways. We think the world of them. I’m ashamed that there’s perhaps some discord on the political side, but believe me, I think most Americans appreciate the Mexicans that have come to America to make a better future for themselves and their families and the way they have contributed.”
Win, lose or draw, the Mexican squad is leaving for Russia right after the match — to represent CONCACAF in the FIFA Confederations Cup.