CARSON, Calif. – If Bob Bradley has any apprehension about Mexico's emerging cluster of sublimely talented youngsters, then he hides it pretty well.
For the United States men's national team head coach, the prospect of regularly facing Giovanni dos Santos, Nery Castillo, Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela for the next several years would appear to pose a potential problem and a threat to America's recent dominance of its foe from south of the border.
However, Bradley claims to be relishing the fresh edge Mexico's new crop of players will add to the rivalry. He has enough confidence in his own youth brigade to feel confident that there will be no sudden reversal of fortune.
Heading into Wednesday's friendly at Houston's Reliant Stadium, Bradley spoke with admiration, but not envy, about the hungry young posse his counterpart Hugo Sanchez is able to call upon.
"It is exciting," Bradley said. "There was a period where on both sides there were a lot of the same players and I think there is some exciting young talent coming in. It is great for fans of both teams to see how the players develop and what the rivalry evolves into in terms of the next level.
"We have a lot of respect for them and what they can do. When we watch Barcelona and see Gio, we understand he is a talented player. But I think they appreciate we have some talented young guys as well, although perhaps they don't say it that much.
"It is to be seen what their guys bring. Until now they have moved Gio along slowly and I can understand that. We haven't had a game yet when we have seen that many of these guys. Over time, we will see it, and it will be a new era for the rivalry."
Dos Santos, the 18-year-old sensation who is starting to make waves at Barcelona, is the focal point for Mexico's new generation. He will lead the challenge Wednesday but won't have the help of Castillo and Guardado, who have been ruled out due to unavailability and injury but are likely to be featured in future USA-Mexico contests.
What the newcomers will share is a collective lack of mental scars against the U.S. That cannot be said for many of their veteran colleagues who have suffered repeated defeats to their biggest rival.
One thing that Mexico's new group will quickly discover is the level of feeling that these matches can summon up. Bradley embraces the high emotion wholeheartedly, and his love for these showdowns rubs off on his players. The energy levels at the training camp leading up to this game were not lacking.
"Our players just love playing in great atmospheres," Bradley said. "The idea of a big stadium, filled and loud, that is still special for our guys.
"This is a great way for us to start the year. There is no better way to show our players that this is what it means to represent the United States."
- Bob Bradley
- Nery Castillo
- Andres Guardado
- Giovanni dos Santos