To all my bros on the current National Team getting ready to go up against Guatemala,
Be prepared for a battle. As I said in my quote on the locker room white board from our match at Guatemala in 2008, “Rise up fighting warriors. Rise and take your stance again. Because he who fights, and doesn’t stray, lives to fight another day.”
That’s a quote from a Bob Marley song that I twisted into my own words a little bit, but that’s what you need to do in Guatemala. You need to rise up. You need to be warriors. You need to stand up for each other.
The conditions are those that you’re not always used to: hot, humid, grass a little thick, fans doing some crazy stuff. Back in the day, for instance, the night before we played Guatemala in Mazatenango in 2000, all of a sudden we had a radio station outside of our hotel room blaring music. It was actually really good music, but it was blasting until the early hours of the morning and none of us could sleep that night. We were up and we heard everything.
It’s just different. It’s their place and they’re using every advantage they can to throw you off your game. What you need to concentrate on is yourselves and each other. You’re ready to put your mind in a different place when you step on that field together.
You’re with your nation. Your fans are behind you, your country is behind you, but they have theirs behind them as well. Who’s going to rise up? Who’s going to fight? Who’s going to not stray? Who’s not going to give in to the conditions, to the battle at hand? Who’s not going to run away and take the battle at hand face-on?
If you’re knocked down, the next guy is right there behind you. You need to fight for each other. When a player looks a little bit tired, you need to be the one that’s picking him up. You need to be the one that’s there for him, just like a tribe. This is what we do - and this is what you need to do here to win.
Hedjuk (far right) celebrates with 2007 teammates Taylor Twellman, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, who scored the winning goal in a 1-0 USA win vs. Guatemala.
It’s going to take every bit of courage, every bit of momentum. Be prepared for the unexpected. We’re with you. We’re behind you. We are living vicariously through you.
Believe me, I wish I could be on that field right now with you guys. You always talk about the glory days, and those glory days can continue through you guys. My heart, my soul, everything I had when I played in Guatemala back in the days, it’s with you guys now. Go out, do what you can, and make sure you leave everything on the field. You don’t ever want to walk off a field thinking you could have given a little more.
As long as you do that, that’s all we can ask for. If you give that effort, the result will take care of itself. As long as you give everything you have for that next guy standing next to you, you’ll be alright.
Good luck bros. Rock and roll, and remember that we’re in this together. One Nation. One Team.
Despite being North American neighbors, the first meeting between the United States and Mexico actually took place on the other side of the Atlantic. Played on May 24, 1934 in Rome, the game was a one-off match – essentially the USA’s first World Cup qualifier – for the right to play in the second FIFA World Cup, which was set to kick off days later in venues across Italy.
Playing in front of 10,000 spectators, including Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the Americans rode a four-goal performance from Aldo “Buff” Donelli to defeat Mexico 4-2 and earn a place in the 16-team field at the 1934 FIFA World Cup.
You would hope the 11 players that came away victorious that day cherished the memory in Rome, because as big as the result was, it would take another 46 years before the USA would defeat Mexico again.
Though 17 of those 24 matches were played on Mexican soil, that winless streak against our neighbors to the south is by far the longest against any one opponent in team history, both in terms of number of games and years,. It fortunately ended on Nov. 23, 1980, when the U.S. used a pair of goals from Steve Moyers to defeat Mexico 2-1 in another Qualifying match, this time for the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
With Mexico already booking its ticket to the next round of Qualifying and the USA already eliminated, from a competitive standpoint, the match was meaningless. However, whether or not they realized it, the 2,126 fans in attendance at Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium witnessed history that night, and to this day are among the few Americans that saw the USA’s 43-year winless streak against Mexico come to an end.
Though the USA and Mexico met only once more during the decade, the dam had been cracked. With 1990 marking the MNT’s first appearance in the World Cup in 40 years, the 1980s also served as a transitional phase in the rivalry with Mexico as a new generation of American players began to reap the benefits of greater emphasis on the game here at home to lay the foundation for future triumphs.
The first in a series of successes came during the semifinals of the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Led by former Mexico head coach Bora Milutinovic, the USA used second-half strikes from John Doyle and Peter Vermes to stun El Tri 2-0 in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 41,103 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and went on to win the tournament’s inaugural title.
WATCH: USA Defeats Mexico 2-0 in 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup SemifinalRead more