The Mexican national soccer team is in San Diego all week to train ahead of two international friendlies, Saturday against Paraguay in Oakland and Tuesday at Qualcomm Stadium against Venezuela.
El Tri is here because it can practice in relative solitude away from friends and family, away from a huge crush of Mexico City media, in mild March weather, in close proximity to the two games. And because of one more thing:
It is at the San Diego Jewish Academy in Carmel Valley, and it was voted the top high school soccer field in the nation in 2009 by the Sports Turf Managers Association. More recently, it received Pioneer Athletics’ 2010 Fields of Excellence Award.
The secret is getting out. The U.S. women’s national team has trained there. So did the NFL’s Tennessee Titans before a Chargers game. El Tri practiced there last year before a game at the Q.
“We spoke with (former national coach) Javier Aguirre and he told us all about the field,” said Hector Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s director of national teams. “All the people in the Mexican federation know about it. And the new coach (Manuel de la Torre) came here about two months ago and looked at the field, and liked it.
“The surface is very nice. It’s big and open. The drainage is very good, even after it rained so hard Sunday. It’s very nice. Very, very nice.”
The 23-player roster includes all of Mexico’s European-based stars: Manchester United’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Carlos Salcido. Also here are Rafael Marquez, Ricardo Osorio, Antonio “Zinha” Naelson and Guillermo Ochoa.
Most players arrived Monday, and the original plan was to train at the Jewish Academy — practices are strictly closed to the public — through Thursday before flying to Oakland on Friday morning. But the team changed its itinerary, flying to Oakland on Friday night now.
They wanted to practice another day on that field.
“We’re fortunate that the founding group of the school had a vision to build first-class facilities that our students could benefit from,” said Mike Quigley, the Jewish Academy’s athletic director. “We’re incredibly proud that we have a relationship with the Mexican national team, and I hope it continues through the years — that this becomes their Southern California home.”