USA vets Hejduk, Wolff, Berhalter give pump-up talk on eve of USMNT vs. Mexico
The latest installment of the USA-Mexico rivalry takes place Friday night, when the CONCACAF foes open the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal against one another in Columbus. Stream the match live via FOX Sports GO at 7:45 p.m. ET.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — “I blacked out.”
That was the recollection of Frankie Hejduk, who hasn’t played in a U.S. jersey for seven years yet somehow continues to be a larger-than-life figure in the USA-Mexico soccer rivalry. On Wednesday, in the final push before Friday’s big World Cup qualifier, Hejduk joined fellow ex-players Gregg Berhalter and Josh Wolff in giving the U.S. team a history lesson on the finer points of the rivalry.
Let’s just say that the presentation by Hejduk, who used to chug coffee right before every game, who once watched a 2006 World Cup match from the stands wearing a HEJDUK jersey, was—how shall we put this?—animated.
“It was straight from the heart, and the truth,” said Hejduk on Thursday of his lunchtime lecture. “I went into the history, from 2001 to the present, how it’s gone, what I felt like. You know, my message. I’m a positive dude. I just try to do anything I can to get those guys ready for battle.”
“After the speech I dropped the mike.” And blacked out.
That wasn’t all Hejduk did.
“He even did a cartwheel after he got done talking,” said Alejando Bedoya. “I don’t know how many espresso shots he had. Man, he got me pumped up. This guy has an energy level that’s hard to explain, but it’s awesome. I wish I had half the energy level he had.”
Hejduk, Berhalter and Wolff addressed the team at coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s request after lunch on Wednesday, and by the end of it the current players were laughing, hooting and clapping. This U.S. team has several youngsters and foreign-born players who weren’t fully aware of the rivalry’s history, and seeing Hejduk go nuts in front of them gave them a better idea of things.
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“It’s just wonderful to connect with the different generations of the players and their experiences,” said Klinsmann on Thursday. “When you put yourself in the mindset of our younger players, [18-year-old] Cameron Carter-Vickers came through the ranks at Tottenham Hotspur and is on the way to becoming a senior national team player, and he was just looking at them with big eyes and said, ‘Wow, look at these stories.’”
“Obviously, Frankie, you guys know Frankie. He’s a character, and he gets the guys going.”
On Friday night we’ll find out how fired up they remain.