U.S. Under-23 Men’s National team forward Mario Rodriguez made the longest journey of the 20 players on the roster to get to this week’s camp after traveling 5,600 miles from his Bundesliga club Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany to Los Angeles, a place he knows well.
“I’m from North Hollywood,” Rodriguez said. “Coming back here is good, but it’s different because this time it’s strictly business, and it’s a good feeling playing against Mexico in my home. It’s really something else and it really feels good.”
Rodriguez has his eyes focused closely on the prize of another U.S. victory over Mexico, hoping to follow up on the senior team’s 2-0 win last week. He got off the plane at LAX after a 13-hour flight with one thing in mind.
“It’s a big rivalry,” he said. “Mexico and the U.S. have been at this battle for a very long time and it’s our turn now.”
Rodriguez was one of the last players to arrive at camp, getting in just shortly after the week’s first training session had begun. Eager to get to work, he texted the team coordinator who he had thought would be waiting for him at the airport.
“I said, ‘What’s up, are you going to come pick me up?’” Rodriguez said. “He was like, ‘No, not right now,’ and I said ‘What?’, and then out of nowhere my parents were there.”
Rodriguez’s mother and father still live in his hometown of North Hollywood, just north of LAX, and were there to surprise him at the airport. Living so far away from home, Rodriguez said it was an amazing surprise and it was wonderful to get the chance to see them.
“They really surprised me,” Rodriguez said. “It was just so nice to see them because I wasn’t expecting it and I haven’t seen them in so long.”
Rodriguez rode alongside mom and dad to the team hotel where they were able to meet the rest of his teammates as they pulled in from training. They wished them all well and told them they would be watching on Wednesday.
Growing up in the Los Angeles area, Rodriguez spent the early part of his career playing through the LA Galaxy youth system. From there he moved on to play for 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 2012 and in 2013 he moved around Germany to play for Borussia Mönchengladbach, the same club as fellow American and U.S. MNT defender Fabian Johnson.
After being on the other side of the world for the last few years, Rodriguez said it will be a great experience to play back home in LA in the stadium of the club where it all began for him.
“It’s always a privilege to put on the red, white and blue and to play for the National Team.”
As an added bonus this time around, he will have his family cheering him on when he does so on Wednesday.