Arizona is a very desirable place to me right now. It’s got a lot of things going for it.The weather there is supposed to be mostly sunny with a temperature in the upper 80s. Baseball’s Spring Training will be starting in about a week where thoughts will focus on the hope of a new season. The state also hosted MLS teams like the Portland Timbers for their preseason scrimmages. And to add to all the greatness happening in Grand Canyon State, U.S. Soccer has decided to grant them a friendly match between the USMNT and Mexico on April 2nd. Lucky dogs.
I live in the Northeast, a land so chronically covered in snow that I’m not sure I’ve seen grass since New Year’s Day. I wish that was a joke. What’s truly puzzling is whether the thought of Arizona gives me hope of warmth and Spring, or smothering envy. The exact opposite side of the country is currently spoiled with preferable sporting events and weather, while I type this wrapped in a blanket, sitting in the trajectory of a rickety old space heater and watching ice-based sports. The soccer games coming up, both this newly announced friendly and the MLS season, give me something to look forward to and daydream about in the meantime.
The game will be played in Glendale, Arizona at the Phoenix Stadium. This is the least friendly friendly that’ll be played in this hemisphere of the World. The USMNT and Mexico have a considerable rivalry that conjures up some great action on the pitch. The last time these two teams met, the USMNT beat El Tri in Columbus, Ohio by the famously repeating scoreline 2-0, aka “Dos a Cero”. The win qualified the USMNT for the World Cup, and added to the qualification winning streak over Mexico on U.S. soil, which now stretches to 4 games.
Another wrinkle added to the game will be the past performance of U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi, who scored a late goal against Panama that kept the Mexican team from missing the World Cup. Zusi is now a hero to Mexican fans — San Zusi is what they call him — but don’t expect them to play any easier against the Yanks. Both teams will be preparing for the trip to Brazil and this will be one of the last matches to tweak and finalize rosters before the World Cup begins.
There is one other USMNT game scheduled before heading to Brazil: a friendly against Ukraine on March 5th, but it takes place in Kharkiv, far, far away from Arizona.