International sporting rivalries produce some of the most emotionally charged games for Americans, but the US-Mexico soccer rivalry has been one of the most competitive and consistent exchanges in all of international sports. Men, women and youth disciplines have all had some memorable matchups in the last decade. When that is paired up with the geographical proximity and politics, a rivalry reaches its final form.
That rivalry got another booster shot this last weekend with a three-game series between the US and Mexico’s men arena soccer teams. The Americans dropped the first two before winning on Saturday in Ontario, California.
Some fans may understand arena soccer rules thanks to the Milwaukee Wave of the Major Arena Soccer League. MASL teams hosted the series between the US and Mexico and many players from the league represented both sides.
For those of us without a team locally, the format can be pretty similar to hockey or indoor lacrosse. Instead of halves, play is divided into four quarters. Teams line up with five players – usually two up front and three defenders or three attackers and two defenders – and a goalie. Players can substitute freely. The formations can change as the goalie can play out of the box, which looks more like the lane on a basketball court.
Players can receive a blue card, which sends a player to the penalty area and off the pitch for either two or five minutes. This furthers the similarities with hockey and indoor lacrosse as teams move to a square or diamond defensive formation to kill off the power play.
The Americans got on the board first, but the Mexicans got back on the board quickly after a turnover deep by the goaltender. Both teams battled back and forth initially, but four unanswered goals for Mexico before the end of the first half gave the visitors a 5-2 advantage at halftime.
US battled back with Travis Pittman knotting it up at 5 with 9:42 left in the game. Mexico’s Angel Curiel added two to make it 8-6 and the Mexicans never looked back.
May 12: 9-7 Mexico
Not a lot on this game, only Twitter updates on the US Twitter page.
Mexico scored just 40 seconds into the game and rocketed to a 3-0 lead halfway through the first quarter. Gordy Gurson started the American resurgence and scored again with four seconds left in the second half to tie the game at 5
The visitors scored three quickly again to take an 8-5 lead after the third quarter. The US didn’t score until 1:04 remaining in the game before Ephraim Beard and Taylor Bond found the back of the net. However the response was too late and the Americans fell for the second time.
Similar to the first two games, this match-up went back and forth the whole game. Neither team had more than a one-goal advantage until Matt Clare hit the game winner.
Here’s video of the Matt Clare goal that gave USA a 7-5 lead and proved to be game-winner. Jersey: Ripped off. pic.twitter.com/5QIYak2qAt
— Zach Ewing (@zewing) May 14, 2017
It was a very physical game as well, with a couple of fights breaking out between players.
What’s a minifootball match without a mini-brawl? pic.twitter.com/bPbHPPjCor
— Zach Ewing (@zewing) May 14, 2017
What is The US Arena Soccer Team?
The US National Arena Soccer team is a pretty unique specimen. Box scores don’t exist for the team because they don’t have a website. They do have a Facebook and a Twitter that are pretty active and fan focused. The US national team fan club American Outlaws were there to give their support, but local media wasn’t there for game two as shown above. That game had a great attendance of 6,855 then dropped to 4,982 for Saturday’s victory, but losing the first two games may have had something to do with it. They also seem to realize that they are on the low end of the totem pole as far as national teams go, according to this retweet:
Both teams were looking to grow their squad before the Arena World Cup this fall. The US was the host country and won the first World Cup in 2015, defeating Mexico 5-3 for the title. The 16-team tournament will be held in Tunisia.
“On the bus on the way down to this game, we just sort of said, ‘This is what we need to do: We need to win if we want to go to Tunisia with this group,’” Clare said to Zach Ewing of Bakersfield.com. “If we lost a third in three nights, we’re not a winning team, and they would find other guys.”
Either way, the US National Arena Soccer Team has some new fans from the Weird Sports Stuff with Brice crew and wish this squad the best of luck in defending their title.