U.S. will feature players with Mexican experience

MEXICO CITY -- The United States will face a crowd expected to approach 110,000, perhaps more, when it takes on Mexico in Wednesday night's friendly at iconic Estadio Azteca, as daunting a task as exists in international soccer.

It's a huge showdown for the Americans, as is every game against their archrival, and they've brought in six players with advanced knowledge of the Mexican game and the men who will suit up for El Tri.

That could be advantageous, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann says the call-ups of the half-dozen from Liga MX -- Santos Laguna forward Herculez Gomez, Pachuca midfielder Jose Torres, Puebla winger DaMarcus Beasley, Club Tijuana midfielder Joe Corona and defender Edgar Castillo, and San Luis defender Michael Orozco Fiscal -- has less to do with where they play than with what they can provide for the U.S.

“We bring them in because we believe how good they are,” Klinsmann said in advance of the match (ESPN2 and Univision, 5 p.m. PT; coverage starting at 4:30). “We bring them in because they are a big part of our program going forward. It's all about the quality that they provide for us . . . You come in here in this group because you proved you're good.

“These players worked their way through the Mexican league, a very difficult league, a very tough league for them. And they proved their point. They are here because they are quality.”

That they know the inner workings of the Mexican game is an added bonus.

“It's important. I think that's why Jurgen brought a lot of the guys from Mexico in,” said Beasley, a three-World Cup veteran who joined Puebla after seven years in Holland, England, Scotland and Germany. “We know the style, the guys [on El Tri], how they play, what they can do, what they can't do. Hopefully, that will work to our advantage.”

This game is something special for the other five -- Gomez and Torres, who were Beasley's teammates on the 2010 World Cup team, plus Corona, Castillo and Orozco Fiscal -- all of whom are Mexican-American. Torres, who has been at Pachuca for seven years, since he was 17, delayed his commitment to the U.S. while awaiting a potential Mexico call-up. Corona, who is from San Diego, featured in a Mexican under-22 camp before pledging his future to the U.S.

“When I was 17, I was at Pachuca watching the U.S.-Mexico game, and I would always think I will be there one day. And I'm here now,” Torres said. “I have the chance to face Mexico at Azteca, and that's something special.”

Corona concurs.

“I have a Mexican culture in me, so it will be a very special game,” he said. “It's going to be a great opportunity for me to show myself to Klinsmann, to get more confidence, to keep striving for that process with the national team. I just want to go out there and enjoy the game, try to get some playing time, do my best.”

They've all played at Azteca with their club teams -- Castillo spent some time at Club America, which calls the stadium home -- and can offer some advice to teammates about how to handle the rabid atmosphere, the 7,300-foot elevation and Mexico's dominance on this field.

“You don't get a chance every day to play Mexico at Azteca,” said Beasley, who has featured for the U.S. in World Cup qualifiers in the facility. “Hopefully, the boys that play get a great experience. It's going to be a good game . It always is playing Mexico.”

Corona says the biggest crowd he's played in front of at Azteca was about 60,000, but he attended a Clasico -- America vs. Chivas -- as a fan, and “it was packed. It was great.”

“I always wanted to play in such a big stadium in front of so many people,” Corona said. “Now that I'm in this position, there are millions of players who would like to be in my shoes.”

Torres, a 2010 World Cup selection whose skill is undeniable, but not so his bite in midfield, says Azteca will be a proving ground. “I want to show myself, show my skill, show my smartness on the ball,” he said. “Go hard in every tackle and show everybody I'm on the national team for a reason, not just because I have skill.”

If they can somehow spur the U.S. to victory -- the U.S. is 0-19-1 all-time at Azteca -- it would be all the more special.

“I'm very excited and honored to get a chance to play here in Azteca against Mexico,” said Orozco Fiscal, who is from Orange and Westminster. “I mean, a lot of people do it, and a lot of U.S. players have done it, but we haven't gotten that win. Hopefully, we can change that and make history.”