Mexico dominates Bolivia at Dick’s
For its final tuneup before a World Cup qualifier later this month against Costa Rica in Mexico City, the Mexican national team chose a high-altitude venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
And not only did the Mexicans perform at a high level at roughly one mile high, they delighted in playing on the ample ground at Dick’s. Mexico gobbled up the wide pitch en route to a 5-1 victory over Bolivia in a friendly Wednesday night in Commerce City.
“If it’s wide, it’s good for us,” said Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. “The pitch was excellent.”
And, in fact, the Rapids shed a little light on how much the Mexicans enjoyed the wide field.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park opened two years ago with a playing surface that was 120 yards long and 80 yards wide, as big as the law allows.
However, last season, the playing surface, at the insistence of Coach Fernando Clavijo, was narrowed to 75 yards wide, still a wide field.
But there it was Wednesday night back at 80.
“I was happy to see them aggressive,” Eriksson said of his players. “I was happy to see them keep up the tempo.”
Eriksson said he was pleased with how El Tri moved the ball around on the big pitch. But, after Bolivia’s Juan Manuel Pena was ejected in the 39th minute, the field got even bigger.
“This game was wide open,” Eriksson said. “It was different after the red card. We don’t expect Costa Rica to be wide open.”
But the reality was that Mexico didn’t need a one-player advantage to put away the Bolivians. Matias Vuoso and Leandro Augusto already had scored by the time Pena was sent off, and the game essentially was out of reach. The expulsion served to embolden the Mexicans, who, in turn, delighted their fans with aggressive play for the full 90 minutes.
Vuoso added a second goal in the 59th minute, Sergio Santana scored on a penalty kick three minutes after Bolivia registered its lone goal and Jose Maria Cardenas wrapped it all up in the 85th minute on a superb assist from defender Oscar Rojas.
PARDO A NO-SHOW: Pavel Pardo did not enter Wednesday’s game, and Eriksson said it was because of a slight injury. “He would’ve played if it was a qualifier today,” he said. “I spoke to him today, and we agreed it was best not to play. We didn’t want to make it worse.”
MORE FROM SVEN: After the game, the Mexican media was very inquisitive about the roster for the Costa Rica game, to the point of repeating other journalists’ questions when they didn’t get the answer they were looking for. “I don’t know how many of these players will be able to play in qualifiers. We have some issues with the European players. It’s very hard to say which players will be called up.”
THE DOMINATION STARTED EARLY: Mexico had its first chance in the first minute: Midfielder Fernando Arce laced a hard, low cross from the right wing right onto the head of striker Omar Bravo, who nearly headed it in. Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Arias made the save, but it was just a taste of what was to come. The Mexicans seemed to send balls across the goal mouth at will, and their forwards (and on at least one occasion a defender) got their heads on them. Had they been able to direct them on net, the score would’ve been worse than 5-1.
SAY WHAT? Wednesday’s stadium announcements were all in Spanish.
AN UPGRADE AT DICK’S? Did anybody notice those electronic field-level advertising boards on the northeast, east and southeast edge of the pitch? It was just like being at Old Trafford! Well, the boards are not new features at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They’re portable, and they travel with the Mexican team.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: We didn’t see much from Bolivian midfielder Joselito Vaca. He was very quiet, and he left the game in the 61st minute in favor of Didi Torrico.
BOLIVIA’S GOAL: Now I’m not up to speed on my Spanish language skills, but I could’ve sworn Torrico was announced as Bolivia’s goal scorer in the 69th minute. However, the stat sheet at the end of the game gave credit to Alex da Rosa. Torrico wore No. 17; da Rosa wore No. 11. I’m pretty sure it was Torrico, despite what the stat sheet says.
SPEAKING OF THE STATS SHEET: Mexico outshot Bolivia 21-5 and had eight corner kicks (Bolivia had none). That’s the type of game it was.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Bravo was spectacular early in the game, but he just kept missing. He was close, but a miss is a miss. And two goals are two goals. So I’m going to have to go with Vuoso.
BOLIVIA’S MAN OF THE MATCH: Da Rosa made an impression early and was one of the few Bolivians playing at a high level well into the second half. He played the full 90.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: The game, for which tickets cost $25 to $75, attracted 18,296 paying fans, a record for an international match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Nearly all of them (perhaps 18,000 of them) were supporters of Mexico. It was a fantastic night, full of spirit and energy. At 5:20, hundreds of people were in line simply waiting to enter the stadium for a game that started at 7. There were a few boos for some of the Bolivians, but most folks were well-behaved and appreciative for a chance to see El Tri. So what does the Rapids’ staff do to retain these folks as customers? They had tables set up along the concourse to sell Rapids tickets. They offered two-fers on the tickets (buy one for the Mexico game and get one for the Rapids’ home opener). Using the scoreboard, they gently reminded the crowd that they could buy tickets to many – if not all! – of the Rapids’ home games. Will it work? Time will tell. But Wednesday’s crowd was a joy to behold. It was an atmosphere that would suit a Rapids home game well.