On Friday, the Stars and Stripes take to the field in the biggest non-World Cup game of the four-year rotation. The United States takes on Mexico at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio once again. It is the beginning of the final state of World Cup Qualifying, the Hexagonal.
On Tuesday though, a bigger moment took place in U.S. history, as Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the Land of the Free in one of the most important and controversial elections in the history of this country.
The importance was not lost on the media that has descended upon Columbus for Friday’s match, as it was a major topic at the U.S. National Team’s training on Wednesday morning.
Like any group of people, there are differing opinions among the U.S. camp. On one side of things is captain Michael Bradley.
“I stayed up for a long time and watched it,” the midfielder said. “The whole thing has been incredibly captivating. There’s been some interesting elections in my lifetime, but maybe the age that I am now meant that I was very interested by it all. So I followed it closely last night.”
While goalkeeper Tim Howard — who did not vote — was on the other side of the coin.
“I went to bed,” he said. “They count the votes and they tell me who is president in the morning. I wouldn’t have voted for Trump if I voted, but there it is. Not much else to say.”
And then there’s those in the middle.
Where ever the players fall on the election, they know that on Friday, they will represent the country with a new president against a nation who, as a whole, does not agree with the results of Tuesday. Although a largely pro U.S. crowd is expect at MAPFRE Stadium, how could this go over?
“I would hope that our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible,” Bradley said. “I would hope that they give every person in that stadium the respect that they deserve. Whether they’re American, Mexican, neutral, men, women, children. I would hope that every person that comes to the stadium comes ready to enjoy what we all want to a beautiful game between two sporting rivals that have a lot of respect for each other and hope that it’s a special night in every way.”
Although Howard was less inclined to discuss the election, he does hope the fans are there to watch a soccer game and not to cause any issues.
“They’re going to be excited for hopefully a U.S. win,” the goalkeeper said. “All the political stuff is nothing. I’m not going to answer any of those questions. I’m not going to get drawn in. It’s politics and this is football and Mexico’s going to try and kick our asses and we’re going to try and kick theirs. It’s got nothing to do with politics.”
No matter your political affiliation or feelings on the election, Friday night is about soccer and qualifying for the World Cup. But the players on the field represent a country, one Bradley is proud of, no matter the president.
“I certainly think, given the way everything has gone the last few months, I think there’s an added layer to this game,” Bradley said. “But my general feeling is that we as Americans, we trust our system. We respect our democracy and we have, regardless of your beliefs, regardless of how you voted, we have an obligation to come together, to get behind our president and to have faith and trust that he will do what’s best for the entire country. That’s what we’ve always done.
“And I think in moments like this, it’s easy to question things, but again, this is what makes our country great. The fact that we have a system where yesterday every American can go and vote. The results may not be what every person wanted; some people are happy, others aren’t. But again, the way forward is to come together and to give our new president support and rally behind him and have faith that he will continue what ultimately I believe every president has always done and make decisions that are for the good of the country.”