Sebastian Saucedo (pictured) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals in the USA's win over St. Kitts & Nevis in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on February 24, 2017. (Photo; Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- With the rivalry between the United States and Mexico evolving into one of the greatest in world football, any meeting between the two sides at any level is a highly-anticipated affair.
As luck would have it, they will meet once again Monday in the opening match of the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship classification stage. On this occasion, the latest installment of the intensely-fought series will be disputed at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
“I have played against a few of them. I played first team in Mexico,” said U.S. midfielder Sebastian Saucedo, who was loaned in 2016 from Real Salt Lake to Liga MX side Veracruz. “Most of them were playing U-20, so I’m ready to take on what’s next with the team.”
Saucedo also has some experience in the Mexico program, having been called into its camp in 2015 to play an unofficial scrimmage against Canada. The 20-year-old, though, has hung his hat with the U.S. and now gets to experience the contention firsthand.
Much like his team, Saucedo has grown into the CONCACAF event, putting behind him the Group B launching 1-0 loss to 10-man Panama. As the Americans wrapped up second place to advance to the second round, Saucedo led the way with a pair of goals, both in a 4-1 win against St. Kitts & Nevis.
With the must-see game just on the horizon, Saucedo believes the U.S. has learned from its struggles and demonstrated improvement. The Mexico meeting will put those beliefs to the test.
“I think we’re all ready and I’m happy with what’s next,” finished Saucedo, citing his memory of watching the 2015 CONCACAF Cup, where the USA fell 3-2 to Mexico, as an experience he doesn’t want duplicated as a player. “I think the (loss to Panama) was just a chapter that the whole team had to turn over. We realize we could have taken that game, but I think the effort is there from everyone and nobody wants to lose in this tournament.”