Robert Jonas: Behind Enemy Lines

Saturday, March 26, 2011 | View Comments
- Robert Jonas | Center Line Soccer

While the city of San Jose recently was awarded the title of “Soccer City USA” by none other than Portland’s daily newspaper The Oregonian, the Bay Area as a whole feels more like Ciudad de México this morning. I’m not referring to new U.S. Census data that shows the State of California taking on diversity of citizenry not seen anywhere else in the country. Rather, I’m talking about the arrival of the Mexican National Team circus at the Oakland Coliseum to take on Paraguay in an international friendly.

The USMNT will be painting the town of East Rutherford red all over later this evening, but out here on the left coast, add white and green to the palette of colorful costumery that will festoon the House that Al Davis built. A sellout crowd of nearly 50,000 flag waving, horn blaring, drum banging devotees of El Tri are expected for the 2 p.m. local time kick off, and the atmosphere should prove electric.

Okay, why do I bring this up, especially as most of you are busy laying out your new USMNT jersey on the bed in an effort to coordinate the new red and blue color scheme with the rest of your apparel? What is so important about Team Mexico playing yet another friendly on our soil? Why am I interrupting your preparations of the face paint and decals you will apply before taking the turnpike to the New Meadowlands? Because I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve got your back.

Against what, you are probably asking? Simply, your job is to cheer the Americans to victory over Lionel Messi and his Argentinean compatriots, while I am sacrificing my afternoon to glean new information on the Mexicans ahead of this summer’s crucial CONCACAF Gold Cup. Throw in the bonus coverage I can provide on the Paraguayan team ahead of their match with the USMNT on Tuesday, and I may be just the insider the team and its most ardent supporters need inside the Coliseum this afternoon.

I’m eagerly looking forward to this assignment — top-notch international soccer, a sold-out stadium, not to mention the 120,000 square foot pre-game interactive fan zone complete with a variety of ethnic food choices that will make your head spin. The chance to see Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez of Manchester United and Giovanni dos Santos of Racing Santander take to the field will only enhance the experience. The first of these two young Mexican strikers is quickly becoming the face of El Tri’s youthful renaissance as he continues to garner plaudits in England and across Europe for his expert finishing ability. Does the man — is he old enough for me to call him that? — have any weaknesses that the U.S. defenders can exploit come Gold Cup tournament time? What of the rest of the young Mexico players that have been called into new coach Jose Manuel de la Torre’s side as he shapes the team with the 2014 World Cup square in his mind? Dos a Cero is a slogan we want to keep stateside in our favor, and not relinquish to our southern rivals. The USMNT can’t possibly be caught flat-footed while Mexico gains traction on the international level.

Well, I aim to discover just what El Chepo is putting together with Team Mexico, and will be reporting my findings back to you, the members of Sam’s Army, the American Outlaws, and the rest of the red, white and blue fanatics. I’ll be posting a rather comprehensive match report from today’s friendly later today on my home website of Center Line Soccer, while returning later in the week to Match Fit USA to reflect on the week that was in Mexican international fútbol. Together, we can all prepare to push Team America forward, and back to the summit of the upcoming Gold Cup.

Mexico faces Paraguay in Oakland at 4:30 PM ET on Univision

Robert Jonas is a writer and podcaster at Center Line Soccer and a frequent contributor to CSRN’s Around The League MLS show. He can always be reached on his twitter @robertjonas.

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