In the Box: Contrasting styles


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The Mexican national team went through a light training session Tuesday on the ancillary fields across the street from Reliant Stadium in anticipation of Wednesday night's matchup against Bulgaria at Reliant Stadium.

One can't forget the success that Mexico had in the 2002 World Cup in group play against European opposition. A 1-0 win over Croatia coupled with a 1-1 draw against Italy was impressive. Yet European opposition is exactly what Mexico seeks and will receive at Reliant Stadium against Bulgaria.

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Houston may be a strange place to Bulgaria but more like home to Mexico.

Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, midfielder Pavel Pardo and striker Daniel Osorno all played in Houston in 2003 during the first-ever soccer game played at Reliant Stadium against the United States.

Many including Sanchez , Pardo , Osorno and Omar Bravo all have come to Reliant as members of their respective club teams for InterLiga play.

Playing in the United States is becoming very familiar to the Mexican national team and the clubs that play in their first division.

"It's very important because in Houston there are many Mexicans," said goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez of Chivas. "It's strange playing so many games in the U.S. but there are many Mexican fans that love soccer."

This game will mark the fourth visit to Houston for the Mexican National squad, including the 2003 match against the United States.

The 'tricolores' have met Bulgaria on 11 previous occasions, with the last one coming on April 17, 2002, when Mexico defeated their Eastern European opponents 1-0.

Overall, Mexico leads the all-time series with four wins, two losses and five ties.

Statistics aside, Wednesday night's match provides a perfect opportunity for Mexico to get competition against European opposition.

"For us it is always important to play against European teams because maybe in the World Cup we will play teams from Europe," said Club America midfielder Pavel Pardo.

Bulgaria is another opportunity for Mexican head coach Ricardo LaVolpe to test his squad against a team outside of CONCACAF much like the U.S. did against Scotland this past Saturday.

As for Bulgaria, led by head coach Hristo Stoichkov, a former world player of the year, the squad is re-building.

Stoichkov started off well in the intial phase of World Cup qualifying but ultimately they did not qualify, which became a huge disappointment to the citizens of Bulgaria.

Many a coach may have been fired but not Stoichkov, who last played for the Chicago Fire in MLS and has the backing of the Bulgarian F.A.

Recently Bulgaria defeated Georgia 6-2 in a friendly match that only drew around only 1,000 fans.

Bulgaria will have star players like midfielder Stilian Petrov (Glasgow Celtic), striker Dimitar Berbatov (Bayer Leverkusen) and striker Valeri Bozhinov (Fiorentina) who squad is near the top of the Serie "A" in Italy.

Absent will be six squad members currently involved with UEFA Cup play that are members of Bulgarian club teams like Levski, CSKA and Litex.

Stoichkov made numerous tactical changes during World Cup qualifying but as of late has been inclined to use a 4-4-2 starting point.

If they start together keep an eye on the trio of Stilian Petrov, Berbatov and Bozhinov up front.

What also will be intriguing at Reliant Stadium will be the meeting of two styles of soccer that both rely heavily on technique. It will be a World Cup-like atmosphere not to be missed.

Quick hits:

  • Major League Soccer issued as statement that their board of directors has granted the Anschutz Entertainment Group approval to move the San Jose Earthquakes to a number of potential cities, including Houston.  It's common knowledge that AEG has been in and out of Houston doing due diligence on potential temporary playing facilities and a long term playing solution. The final decision on a location will be reached in the next 30 days according to the statement. 
  • Former Mayde Creek High School and Hurricanes Soccer Club star Josh Gardner is a member of the MLS Cup winning LA Galaxy.
  • Cy-Fair Dynamos Coaching Director Olivier Findori surely gets it.  Findori realizing the importance of getting youngsters out to international soccer cancelled all club training sessions Wednesday and has encourage everyone to attend the Mexico/Bulgaria match including his staff.  This is progressive thinking one that all youth clubs should adopt to round out a "true youth soccer experience."

Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show on ESPN 790 AM every Sunday from 5-6 pm. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.

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