United States men’s national team striker Ricardo Pepi admitted it will be a “special feeling” when he faces North American rivals Mexico in the World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents, Pepi understands the magnitude of this rivalry. The stakes are even higher for the dual-nationality player after he chose to represent the USMNT over Mexico.
Pepi explained to Yael Averbuch West on 90min’s newest podcast Football Americana that while the decision wasn’t easy, he felt a strong connection to one anthem.
“It was a very hard decision, but I feel like I really feel close to the US. I really feel like, when I’m out there, just listening to the national anthem, that I could feel that relationship. I could feel in my heart that I’m protecting the US, and I’m fighting for the US. I feel like it has to be a feeling and you have to make the decision with your heart.”
Pepi quickly gained his place on the USMNT roster after his stunning debut against Honduras during the September round of qualifiers, scoring twice and involving himself in all four goals.
Now, the striker will turn his attention to the coveted US vs. Mexico match on Friday, a game he has said is “a dream”.
“That’s always been a dream of mine, to be able to play versus my rival, which is, in this case, Mexico. I feel like that would be one of the best games that I could ever participate in. Just feeling that feeling of just playing in a game where I’m Mexican and I’m American, so I’m definitely just going against the Mexican side. That’s for sure a dream of mine.”
The United States currently stand in second on the Concacaf table, three points behind Mexico. Winning Friday’s match would lift the USMNT to first place.