Clint Dempsey offers a toast to U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry
"I don't think you can get tired of playing against Mexico," says midfielder Clint Dempsey, who will lead the U.S. national team against Mexico in Saturday's Gold Cup final before a sellout crowd of more than 90,000 in the Rose Bowl. "The rivalry is great for soccer."
The two countries have combined to win nine of the previous 10 Gold Cups, with Mexico taking the last one, in 2009, and the U.S. winning three of the four before that. Saturday's winner earns a berth in the next Confederations Cup in Brazil, which will be held a year before the World Cup.
But although a lot of blood has been spilled over the years in what has become an emotional series, Dempsey says it's nothing personal. In fact, he's become a pitchman for Modelo Especial, one of Mexico's most popular beers. And the Texan sees nothing odd about that.
"I grew up near Mexico and learned from a lot of Mexican players, so I definitely have respect and history with Mexico," he says. "In terms of my loyalty, Modelo Especial is a quality beer that’s popular here in the United States and in Mexico, and I’m happy to work with the brand."
Surprisingly, Dempsey isn't the first U.S. national team player to find a marketing niche with a Mexican company. Last year Landon Donovan did a series of TV spots for the Mexican lottery, helping soften the American's image south of border while drawing attention to the campaign.
"Mexicans and Mexican Americans are extremely passionate about soccer ... but I think it’s difficult to estimate what my fan base is in Mexico," Dempsey says. "I’m sure some may appreciate my style of play but have allegiance to their own country’s players. As for the marketing future of American players, I think that it’s pretty limitless. A lot of us on the national team play in countries all over the world, so I think we have the ability to interact with not only Americans but can appeal to other markets too given the right fit."
-- Kevin Baxter
Photo: United States midfielder Clint Dempsey. Credit: Troy Taormina / US Presswire