Mexican teams bring soccer rivalry to Kansas City

Sep 16 2009 - 10:37pm

Wednesday night's exhibition game between Club America and Club Deportivo Guadalajara at Arrowhead Stadium has been dubbed "El Clasico." How can an exhibition game be a classic? Well, it involves Mexico's two highest-profile teams, which have fans all across Mexico and in the United States. It is not hard to find the distinct uniforms of the teams, even in Kansas City. America has its yellow shirts, and CD Guadalajara, better known as Chivas, sports red-and-white stripes with a touch of blue. While America is off to a fast start to the Apertura season -- leading its group -- Chivas is struggling in fourth place. But this is such a deep-seated rivalry that records mean little when these teams play.

Here are five things to look for in Wednesday night's game, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. CDT.

1.) Two players to watch. Chivas' Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez helped Mexico win the under-20 World Cup and has scored five goals in seven games this season. America's Salvador Cabanas is from Paraguay and has 59 goals in 102 games for his Mexican club, including seven in seven games this season.

2.) An exhibition game in soccer is often referred to as a "friendly," but don't let that fool you. Chivas and Club America will be going for the win.

"The only thing friendly about this game can be the name," Hernandez said in a conference call. "We always try to win. With it being against America, for the rivalry, we always go out for a win."

3.) The fans love their team -- and despise the other. This is like the difference between when the Chiefs play the Raiders and the Bengals. Fans want the Chiefs to beat the Bengals, but they want the Chiefs to destroy the Raiders.

"It's interesting when we play Clasico here in Mexico or in the United States," Club America midfielder Pavel Pardo said in a conference call. "There is a lot of passion from the fans."

4.) Ever wonder what George Steinbrenner would have done if he'd had today's technology in his heyday? Chivas owner Jorge Vergara, who bought Chivas in 2002, gives you a good idea. He's, shall we say, a passionate owner. He forbids Chivas from signing non-Mexican players, which makes him beloved in that country. He also isn't shy about criticizing his team.

Earlier this year, he tweeted after a loss: "Games similar to Saturday's shows the lack of commitment and responsibility in some players in wearing the Chivas jersey. The grandness of Chivas does not give ways to these types of highs and lows. The lack of attitude, commitment and dedication can not be tolerated."

That pressure is always going to be felt by the players, even in an exhibition game.

5.) Wednesday is Mexican Independence Day, and that should give the game just a little more of an edge.

"It's a very important thing, our day of independence," Hernandez said. "It's going to be a wonderful game, more because it's Independence Day and doing what we like to do most, which is playing soccer."

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