Landon Donovan created a furor Saturday when he threw his support behind the United States soccer team’s biggest rival, Mexico, one day before Mexico beat Germany 1-0 in the opening game of the World Cup for both teams.
“The tournament is here!” Donovan wrote on Twitter in a message sponsored by Wells Fargo. “USA fans, our team may not be in Russia, but our neighbors to the south are. So join me and their proud #sponsor @WellsFargo to cheer on our other team, Mexico.”
In response, one of Donovan’s former U.S. teammates, Carlos Bocanegra, wrote: “Really?”
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Donovan, who’s tied with Clint Dempsey for most goals scored in U.S. history, punctuated the message with two words: “Vamos México!”
Most fans rejected Donovan’s plea — some because Donovan’s message was sponsored, which is a fair reason to not take it seriously.
However, I’m going the opposite way. I’m with him. While I picked Poland as the team I’m rooting for in this World Cup — a nod to my great grandparents and my last name — I would enjoy seeing Mexico make a run.
Here are three reasons I’ll root for Mexico:
1. Big underdog: When I don’t have a team to root for in major events — something I’ve grown used to as a Cincinnati Bengals fan — I just root for the best story. Typically, that means picking an underdog. Even if the Cleveland Browns ever made the playoffs again — a huge if — I’d root for them if they weren’t playing the Bengals.
Mexico has a tortured World Cup history. It has played in 15 World Cups and advanced to the quarterfinals twice. It has lost in the round of 16 in the last six World Cups. That includes a 2-0 loss to the United States in 2002.
Even after upsetting Germany, Mexico has 50-1 odds of winning the World Cup. Germany had 4-1 odds at the beginning of the tournament.
2. Strong fan base: There’s no doubt Mexico has a great fan base, and I like seeing long-suffering fan bases rewarded. Mexico fans fill stadiums in the United States for US-Mexico games. Even Saturday in Russia, Mexican fans outnumbered German fans in the stands.
According to one German website, “A deafening display from Mexico fans in the Luzhniki Stadium played its part in contributing to one of Germany's worst performances in ages.”
3. Rooting for North America: Europe and South America are the only continents to produce World Cup champions. North America has never put a team in the finals.
Mexico plays its second game Saturday against South Korea and finishes group play against Sweden on June 27, and while I think it’s unrealistic to expect Mexico to win the World Cup, the victory over Germany raises the expectations for their real fans — and bandwagon fans like me and Donovan.