The Mexican National Team is celebrating 20 years of hosting friendlies and other contests in the United States Saturday as the team returns to Los Angeles, this time to host the Colombian national team at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
While the event typically brings much fanfare, the Mexican National Team will always be one of the biggest acts in LA, it’s practically a second home field, not everyone is happy about this friendly.
“Very good FMF, let’s fill those suitcases with green bills” one fan posted in Spanish on X, replying to the Mexican National Team’s post about the team’s arrival to LA.
Many among the fanbase have mixed emotions about these friendlies, with some viewing the games as no more than a cash grab, while others feel they don’t play enough actual “home” matches.
In 2023 alone, Mexico has hosted eight “home” friendlies, six were hosted in the United States. This does not include the Nations League Final Four and Gold Cup competitions, which were also hosted in the U.S.
Many fans share this same sentiment, as many believe the friendlies are arranged with financial gain as the focus, rather than the final product on the pitch.
For example, Saturday’s friendly against Colombia is taking place on a non-FIFA sanctioned date. This means clubs aren’t mandated by FIFA to allow their players partake in this match.
Saturday’s friendly also happens to be near other important competitions such as the Liga MX Final between Club América and Tigres UANL, as well as the start of the FIFA Club World Cup, featuring Club León.
With many South American seasons ending around the same time, this means neither Mexico nor Colombia will have their top talents on their rosters, which leads some to question, why is this friendly being played?
On the surface, Saturday seems like a chance for both squads to give younger faces some experience with the senior team and try new tactics.
Some could argue for Mexico, that this could provide a chance for the team to see a quality CONMEBOL opponent and with the 2024 Copa América around the corner, this gives the Mexican coaching staff, which was drawn into Group B, a chance to familiarize itself with its Group D counterpart.
Colombia could make a similar argument considering Mexico is co-hosting the next World Cup and the team could benefit from playing a friendly against one of CONCACAF’s best.
But, the decision to host this friendly at the end of the year, near the conclusion of Mexican and South American club seasons, outside of a FIFA window, was questionable from the start.
For the coaches and players, this marks another date on an already congested schedule, but as expected when the Mexican National Team plays in Los Angeles or anywhere in the Southwestern U.S., plenty of tickets were sold.
Mexico’s latest roster was revealed earlier this week, head coach Jaime Lozano selected a Liga MX-based team, one featuring many new faces.
Lozano’s roster is very experimental, featuring 11 first-ever call-ups and only seven of the 22 members of this roster have made appearances at the senior national team level for Mexico.
Cesar ‘Chino’ Huerta returns to the National Team after his Pumas fell in the Liga MX semifinals. Keep an eye for the Captain’s armband on Huerta, as he enters Saturday’s friendly with the most appearances for the young Mexican squad with five.
Mexico will also see a new face in goal, as Tijuana’s Antonio Rodriguez and Pumas’ Julio González will compete for the starting keeper spot. Usual starter Guillermo ‘Memo’ Ochoa is still nursing a shoulder injury he suffered against Honduras last month and his replacement, Luis Malagón, is in the Liga MX Final with América.
While some could argue the roster Lozano called up doesn’t have much star power, TUDN’s Gibran Araige reported that over 55,000 tickets have been sold to Saturday’s friendly. The capacity at the LA Memorial Coliseum is 78,000.
Mexico’s recent results outside of CONCACAF, just one win against an opponent outside of the region this year, a 2-0 win over Ghana in Charlotte in October, have casted doubt about the team’s form.
A positive result here could drown out the noise from some of Lozano’s critics, after Mexico needed penalties to narrowly get past Honduras in the Nations League Quarterfinals last month.
That result came about a month after Mexico tied with Germany, 2-2, in Philadelphia. This recent inconsistency has lead to some in the Mexican media to question Lozano’s ability to lead the national team, just six months into his tenure.
Colombia enters the friendly on a much more positive note. La Tricolor released its roster on Dec. 4, before the team defeated Venezuela, 1-0, in Miami last Saturday.
Colombia enters Saturday’s friendly undefeated in 2023. La Tricolor sits third in the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying table with 12 points, while remaining the only team without a loss thus far.
As a matter of fact, the last team to defeat Colombia was defending World Cup champions Argentina in early 2022.
Speaking of which, Los Cafeteros also had a special visitor at training when in Miami, as the team posted Lionel Messi’s visit to its social media pages.
The Colombian national team enters boasting a strong defense, conceding once in its last four matches, including last Saturday’s friendly against Venezuela.
Colombia called up MLS Cup MVP Juan ‘Cucho’ Hernandez from the Columbus Crew to the roster as well as U-23 talents Ian Poveda and Devan Tanton, who play for Leeds United and Fulham in the English Premier League.
How to Watch
Saturday’s friendly is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the Coliseum and will air on TUDN in Spanish and FS1 in English.