Pasadena Proves It Is Quite a Site

Mexico's soccer team ran onto the field Saturday in its traditional green shirts, white shorts and red knee-high stockings. Oh, except for Jorge Campos, the goalie, Senor Day-Glo, who wore another of his wild, colorful, clown-like costumes, usually seen only on Renaldo McDonald.

Then the team from the soccer-loving United States of America ran onto the Pasadena pasture before a tremendous crowd of 91,123, including the estimated 1,123 who didn't come to cheer for Mexico.

Final score?

Yankees 1, red socks nothing.

With a perfect pass from Eric Wynalda to Roy Wegerle that caught Campos out of position and resulted in what Wynalda called "90,000 worried-looking Mexican-Americans," the U.S. team won this final warm-up game, 1-0, to prepare itself for the serious kicking to come.

But the real winner?

Pasadena, USA.

Yes, Pasadena, soccer capital of this great soccer-loving universe of ours, held one final full dress rehearsal Saturday on the same green, green grass where the World Cup tournament's July 17 championship game will be played. And Pasadena passed the test. Grass, great. Weather, warm. Organization, orderly. Crowd control, efficient. Excellent work by everybody here at the Toes Bowl.

We're ready for Soccer Summer '94. Soccer fever. Catch it.

The U.S. team looks ready, too.

Asked what the key to Saturday's 1-0 victory was, defender Cle Kooiman quickly said, "The zero goals against is the key. I'll tell you what, if we can stop teams from scoring, I can guarantee you at least three ties."

Good key, Cle. In the first round, the U.S. only plays three games.

And Mexico?

Well, it isn't yet evident whether Mexico's team is ready. The team has been victorious in only two of its seven pre-Cup games. On the other hand, it was playing Saturday without the great Luis Roberto Alves Zague, alias "Zaguinho," striker extraordinaire, and also without Hugo Sanchez, equally legendary striker, who recently gave an interview in which he said he was happy to "sacrifice my individual brilliance" for the sake of the team. Bravo, Hugo.

Still, Mexico's many fans must be getting anxious.

"Everybody will panic over this, but it's still a great team," U.S. defender Alexi Lalas said. "Oh, I don't really care whether they panic or not."

Is Mexico's coach, Miguel Mejia Baron, panicky?

Hard to tell. In a lengthy post-game interview Saturday, the most outspoken comment Coach Baron made was that the World Cup will begin June 17.

At one point, Baron said of his team's performance, "The game just ended five minutes ago. This is a game that I have to think about once, twice, three times."

No problem, Miguel. Give us a call after your tri-think.

One reason Mexico's fans turned out in great numbers is because they cannot be positive they will see their heroes here in California again soon. The first three World Cup games for Mexico will be played in Washington, twice, and Orlando, Fla., not an easy commute.

So, you mean 91,000 fans came across the border for this one game?

"No, no, no," corrected the U.S. coach, Bora Milutinovic. "They live here. They didn't come from out of the country. Mexico's team is very much loved here."

More than our own team, maybe.

Wynalda was asked, "Did this feel like a road game to you?"

"Absolutely," he said.

"Why?"

"Well, they booed us," Wynalda said. "We got booed on our home field. That's a strange feeling, let me tell you."

Wynalda, the local-boy Westlake Villager, covered half of the San Fernando Valley on his way to assisting on the goal. He outran Ignacio Ambriz, got Raul Gutierrez to commit in midair, then faked out Juan Ramirez Perales by passing instead of shooting. By the time Ramon Ramirez could make a last-second lunge, Wegerle was booting the ball past the orange-yellow-purple-green sleeve of Campos into the lower-right webbing of the net.

Campos, said Wynalda, "He's always making forwards' life miserable. You never know what he's going to do.

"They said he didn't play the shot correctly. The way he plays, how can you tell?"

Well, you know how it is, Eric.

Everybody has an opinion, here in soccer-crazy America.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
69°