MEXICO CITY (AP) — A day before his only game at the Estadio Azteca, Claudio Reyna assessed the rise of American football and the competition the Americans had created in their intense rivalry with Mexico.
“I think it’s kind of insulting to them because football is the one and only sport in this country,” the USA captain said in 2005.
His son Gio gets the chance to play Azteca for the first time on Thursday night, when the United States take on El Tri at the start of the final trio of the World Cup qualifiers.
Claudio’s last national team appearance was a 2006 World Cup loss to Ghana, so Gio never saw his father play for the Stars & Stripes.
“My dad retired from the national team when I was only 3 or 4 years old,” Gio, 19, said Tuesday in Houston, where the Americans were training. “But he told me about it. I understand that I heard it from some guys. I obviously watched many matches at Azteca.
Canada leads North and Central America and the Caribbean with 25 points, and the United States is second with 21, ahead of Mexico on goal difference. Panama is fourth with 17 points, followed by Costa Rica with 16 and El Salvador with nine. Jamaica and Honduras were eliminated.
The top three nations qualify for the 32-nation group in Qatar in November, and fourth place advances to the June qualifiers against Oceania champions, likely New Zealand. If the United States qualify next week, they will likely be in Pot 2 for the April 1 draw, but the playoff winner will be in Pot 4, bringing an extra strong opponent and no low-ranking opposition. .
“Qualifying for the World Cup is the absolute minimum,” said midfielder Tyler Adams. “We need to do this to keep the program moving forward, to give our players the best opportunity to continue to grow and get that international exposure and grow the game in the United States.”
The United States failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, losing 2-1 at Trinidad and Tobago in the last qualifier and ending a streak of seven consecutive appearances in the football showcase.
Part of the American fan base is worried that the United States may need at least one point from this year’s final qualifier, in Costa Rica on March 30. A victory on Sunday against Panama in Orlando, Florida, would put the United States in position to clinch as long as Costa Rica does not sweep its last three games against Canada, El Salvador and the United States.
Claudio Reyna’s only game at Azteca was a 2-1 defeat in a 2005 qualifier. He missed the 1997 and 2001 qualifiers for accumulating yellow cards.
Gio Reyna suffered a hamstring injury in the opener last September and hasn’t played for the national team since. Last weekend for Borussia Dortmund, he played his first 90-minute game since last summer.
“I’ve gained a lot of strength over the last two or three months. So, yeah, I’m pretty confident in my body right now,” Gio said. “It was great to have 90 minutes before we got to camp. It gave me a huge boost of confidence knowing I can do it now.
Reyna was an ocean away for most qualifying.
“I was staying up late, 3 or 4 in the morning, watching the games in Germany,” he said. “It definitely motivated me to try and get back as soon as possible. Of course, it took longer than I would have liked.
The Mexican Football Federation planned to limit attendance in a bid to stop fans chanting anti-gay chants, prompting FIFA to order two qualifying matches to take place last fall in a near-empty stadium .
The United States has 12 losses and four draws in qualifying in Azteca, at an altitude of 7,200 feet (2,200 meters). Michael Bradley chipped goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from around 40 yards out in the sixth minute in 2017, but Carlos Vela beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan with a shot from 23 yards to the near post, earning a 1-1 draw. The 2013 qualifier at Azteca was a 0-0 draw.
In addition, the United States will be looking to win a fourth consecutive game against Mexico for the first time after victories in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, the CONCACAF Gold Cup in August and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in August. a World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati in November. Still, Mexico have 36 wins in the rivalry and the United States 22, with 15 draws.
“The feeling you get when you can beat or win a rivalry game is amazing,” Adams said. “So going there and taking care of business would be important for the group, important for our confidence and obviously showing the strength of the group to be able to go to an away game and win in a difficult qualifying cycle.”
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