Specter of pol­i­tics hangs over US team’s showown with Mex­ico

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Mitch Stacy The As­so­ci­ated Press

When the U.S. and Mex­ico meet in a World Cup qual­i­fier Fri­day night in Ohio, the ri­vals will play against a back­drop of amped-up po­lit­i­cal vit­riol pro­voked by Don­ald Trump dur­ing his suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Win­ning this swing state with 52 per­cent of the vote was one of the keys to Trump’s vic­tory Tues­day. Dur­ing a con­tentious cam­paign, the bil­lion­aire promised to build a wall on the Mex­i­can border to help stem il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Even be­fore Trump’s tri­umph, a rau­cous, pro-Amer­i­can crowd was ex­pected in Colum­bus, where the U.S. has beaten El Tri 2-0 in four con­sec­u­tive home qual­i­fiers.

“I cer­tainly think there’s an added layer to this game, given ev­ery­thing that’s gone on the last few months,” U.S. cap­tain Michael Bradley said. “We have to­tal re­spect for ev­ery­body and a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion not just for the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­cans but for the peo­ple from around the world who come and make a new life for them­selves in our coun­try.”

Play­ers said Thurs­day they don’t think the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate will af­fect the usu­ally di­aled-up in­ten­sity be­tween the two sides. There is al­ready so much at stake at the be­gin­ning of the fi­nal round of qual­i­fy­ing, known as the hexag­o­nal.

“I would hope not, you know?” mid­fielder Ale­jan­dro Be­doya said. “I know there are peo­ple out there who would like to politi­cize this game, but I don’t see the need for it. It’s a ri­valry — U.S. vs. Mex­ico. It’s noth­ing more than that. We’re go­ing to try to kick each other’s butt on the field.”

Be­doya said he hopes the fans re­spect the Mex­i­can team, as well.

“I’m not re­ally that con­cerned,” mid­fielder Sacha Kl­jes­tan said. “I think the mes­sage is that we be pos­i­tive with each other and re­ally come to­gether, like we al­ways do. I’m not wor­ried.”

Mex­ico coach Juan Car­los Osorio, a na­tive of Ar­gentina, sidestepped ques­tions about the po­lit­i­cal over­tones. Mex­ico didn’t make its play­ers avail­able to com­ment Thurs­day.

“I was first an ex­change stu­dent, then I was an im­mi­grant in the United States try­ing to get a great op­por­tu­nity and work, and work as hard as any Amer­i­can. So I can sym­pa­thize with how the Mex­i­cans feel about the whole sit­u­a­tion,” Osorio said. “Nev­er­the­less my ef­forts are all di­rected to­ward win­ning the game and noth­ing else. I’m re­ally not here to dis­cuss any po­lit­i­cal is­sues.”

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