May 30, 2014

Mexico, Ecuador soccer teams face off in Arlington

Mexico’s national team is returning to a familiar place, Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, for a World Cup warmup match against Ecuador.

For Mexico’s national soccer team, AT&T Stadium is becoming a home away from home.

The team travels to the home of the Dallas Cowboys about as often as the New York Giants.

El Tri, as Mexico’s beloved (and sometimes bemoaned) team is known for its display of the country’s tricolor flag, will make its fifth appearance in Arlington on Saturday since AT&T Stadium opened in 2009. The team will play Ecuador in a World Cup warm-up match.

More than 80,000 fans are expected to attend the international friendly. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNews and Univision.

The 5-year-old stadium was built for the National Football League, but because of its location and fan comforts it has quickly become a favorite place for summertime futbol as well.

Fewer than 100 scattered single seats are still available at the box office, and standing-room-only Party Passes are being sold, one official said.

“We don't like to predict attendance numbers, but we expect a very large crowd to rival some of the top crowds the stadium has ever seen for soccer,” said Gabriel Gabor, spokesman for Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing.

Tickets also are available on the secondary market. As of Tuesday, about 4,000 tickets were available on StubHub, with standing-room-only going for $44 each, and prime midfield seats going for about $455.

Both countries bring a generous supply of storylines to the game:

Doing without

After barely qualifying for the World Cup and changing coaches four times in a little more than a month late last year, Mexico’s national team seems to finally be stable. Under manager Miguel Herrera, the Club America boss who took over in October, Mexico has regained its ability to score. On the field that is. Herrera has reportedly forbidden his players from eating red meat or having sexual relations until after the World Cup run. No word on whether the players will be allowed to indulge in a steak, or anything else, while in Arlington.

Tale of the tape

Mexico and Ecuador have played each other 18 times — and Mexico has the edge with 12 wins. They last met in May 2011, playing to to a 1-1 draw in Seattle. On paper at least, Ecuador has an easier path to the second round of World Cup play, with Group E matches against Switzerland, France and Honduras. Mexico’s path is considered tougher in Group A withhost Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon

Return to world class

Ecuador is making its return to World Cup competition after failing to qualify in 2010. The country’s best finish was a trip to the round of 16 in 2006. The captain is Antonio Valencia, a respected midfielder who had a rough season with his English club Manchester United and should be hungry for success.

Vela drama

The absence of Carlos Vela, a forward for Spanish club Real Sociedad and among the best Mexican international players, is an ongoing drama. Vela and a teammate were suspended in 2010 for their roles in a party in Colombia, and after his brief return to the team led to lots of negative media coverage and bad feelings, Vela has refused to play for his country — and he won’t be there this year. But Mexico is loaded with talent, including midfielder Giovani dos Santos, who plays for Villareal in Spain, and striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United). Two California-born players also are on the Mexico team: defender Miguel Ponce and midfielder Isaac Brizuela.

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