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Chivas youth teams at USA CUP won’t be pulling for crosstown rival Atlas in Saturday’s international friendly

07/14/2017, 7:55pm CDT
By Patrick Malin, Media Intern

The Schwan’s USA CUP is renowned as a cultural mixing pot for youth soccer, with teams hailing from 15 different countries meeting in Blaine, Minn. every July to build connections across country borders. Minnesota United FC (MNUFC) will add a dash of international flavor into its own professional schedule during USA CUP, with an international friendly match against Atlas FC of Liga MX, Mexico’s top soccer league.

MNUFC Players Warm Up

The Loons kept loose with a game of soccer tennis in their final tune-up before their international friendly.

The Schwan’s USA CUP is renowned as a cultural mixing pot for youth soccer, with teams hailing from 15 different countries meeting in Blaine, Minn. every July to build connections across country borders. Minnesota United FC (MNUFC) will add a dash of international flavor into its own professional schedule during USA CUP, with an international friendly match against Atlas FC of Liga MX, Mexico’s top soccer league.

MNUFC will host Atlas FC at TCF Bank Stadium at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 14, to add to their lengthy list of international opponents throughout the club’s history.

Atlas FC is a club from Guadalajara, Mexico, known frequently as Los Zorros (The Foxes), or Los Rojinegros (The Red-and-Blacks) for their distinctive kit coloration. Club Atlas is particularly known for its strong youth academy, which has produced many of Mexico’s top domestic and international talent. Notable Atlas academy alumni include midfielder and former Mexican national team captain Andrés Guardado and Pável Pardo, the second most capped player in the history of the Mexican national team.

Atlas FC’s roster is highlighted by 38-year old captain Rafael Márquez. Márquez is the club’s most famous player, having served as captain of the Mexican national team for four consecutive World Cups (2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014). Márquez commanded a dominant back-line for FC Barcelona for nearly a decade, but returned to Atlas FC in 2016 after his debut with the club in 1996. The versatile center back is heralded as the best Mexican defender, and is often ranked as one of the top Mexican players of all time.

“It’s going to be a difficult game. It’s a really competitive club,” Minnesota United’s head coach Adrian Heath said of Saturday’s match against Atlas FC. “We know it’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”

MNUFC Player Signs Ball

Minnesota United FC hosted an open practice and autograph session at the NSC as the team prepared for Saturday’s match against Liga MX opponent, Atlas FC.

Playing a strong international squad will force Minnesota United to adapt to a unique playing style that may require an adjustment from the Loons’ domestic Major League Soccer opponents.

“The one thing I know when you play Mexican teams, tactically and technically they are excellent, and they do cause you problems with little things they do, so that will be interesting to see,” Heath said.

Heath sees the friendly against Atlas FC as an opportunity for his players to impress in an expanded role.

“The most important thing tomorrow for us is that there are four or five players who have been really disappointed that they haven’t played lately. I think it’s really important for them to really now start to push on in the second half of the season and try to force their way into the starting 11,” Heath said.

“Every time that you play, whether it be in training or a game, it’s an opportunity to impress,” added Heath.

Atlas FC is not the only team located in Guadalajara, with reigning Liga MX champion Club Deportivo Guadalajara (Chivas) lurking as a colossal intra-city rival. The two teams frequently battle in a match-up referred to as the “Clásico Tapatío,” which claims a rich history of over 100 years. The fervent passion from the opposing fan bases is evident when the teams clash, and is frequently referred to as one of the most intense rivalries in the sport.

Although the National Sports Center is welcoming two Mexican teams to the USA CUP week-end tournament, Atlas FC will not gain any supporters among the visiting Mexican players. Both teams competing at USA CUP this weekend are teams from the Chivas Academy, the same academy that has produced stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Carlos Vela.

The Chivas Academy squads have already made a strong impression at USA CUP, putting their superior skills and excellent ball distribution on display on the first day of the tournament. The U14 boys completed their first day of play with two wins in two games (and a plus-19 goal differential), and the U12 boys posted a 13-0 victory early in the afternoon.

A victory for the Loons over Atlas FC would not only satisfy local Minnesota teams, but also a pair of Atlas FC’s hometown transplants. Heath hopes his team can rebound from a disappointing July 4 loss at the hands of the Columbus Crew with a win against Atlas FC, and carry over momentum from a victory when the MLS schedule restarts on Wednesday, July 19.

Discounted tickets for tomorrow’s MNUFC game against Atlas FC are available for all USA CUP participants. Stop by the Minnesota United FC booth in The Hub on Saturday morning for ticket information.

Tag(s): July 14, 2017