USA-Mexico full of storylines for Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier

Joe Rodriguez (Amanda DeCastro/ESPN)
ESPN producer Joe Rodriguez (Amanda DeCastro/ESPN)

Editor’s Note: The USA plays Mexico tomorrow in a World Cup qualifier. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, then continues at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Joe Rodriguez, a producer for ESPN since January 2012, knows how heated the rivalry between the USA and Mexican soccer teams goes. He has been a part of ESPN’s studio team for the network’s live soccer coverage for some of the sport’s most intense matchups, including the USA-Costa Rica “snow game.” But USA-Mexico is on another level, a rivalry which Rodriguez calls “one of the deepest in sports.” For Rodriguez, who says soccer is his favorite sport, the series is personal, having been born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moving to the United States at the age of eight. Rodriguez shared his thoughts on the upcoming match with Front Row.

What are some of the storylines we can expect to be highlighted for the USA-Mexico match?
There’s a huge contrast between both programs. The U.S. is going through a remarkable run that was capped by winning the Gold Cup. Then you have Mexico’s abysmal performance at the Confederations Cup. What we have here is two teams that have been on a collision course since last March, but they have gone about it in completely opposite ways. It’s going to be interesting to see how much of an effect that has on the individual teams, or if that just goes out the window because of the intense rivalry. For the U.S., what does it mean to win? Be it friendly, qualifier, World Cup. It’s just crucial and imperative for the U.S. to beat Mexico at any stage.

The big Mexico storyline is replacing coach Jose Manuel de la Torre with Luis Fernando Tena after Friday’s loss to Honduras. Tena is known as a capable coach with Liga MX coaching experience, and he led Mexico to the gold medal in London last year. Will he be able to save Mexico like Javier Aguirre did in 2009, when the team was in danger of missing the 2010 World Cup? Very compelling story lines will set tone of what is expected to be an incredible game with a fantastic atmosphere.

You mention soccer is your favorite sport. How does it feel to be able to work on the sport as part of the larger ESPN soccer production team?
I’m just very grateful to [Executive Producer] Jed Drake and [Coordinating Producer] Amy Rosenfeld, because they allowed me to be part of this great group of individuals, and they have put such a wonderful team together, both on-air and behind-the-scenes. They’ve made the process a very smooth one. I think it’s something that couldn’t have been done if we didn’t have the type of team we have here at ESPN.

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