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Organizers promise that Wednesday's meeting between Club America and Guatemala's national team is the beginning of an annual series, with the Mexican giant taking on a different "international" team each winter -- and with a trophy at stake.
Neither of these teams are strangers to Southern California, and both have significant followings here. America is, with Guadalajara, one of Mexico's two true giants, and they're making their third 2010 appearance in L.A. Many Guatemalans live in SoCal, and they're getting to see their team for the third time this year, too.
America made few changes from a side that made a nice late-season run during the Apertura, adding midfielder Nicolas Olivera from Puebla and bringing back defender Rodrigo Iņigo from Gallos Blancos de Queretaro. The big stars: goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa, midfielder Pavel Pardo -- Ochoa is a Mexican national team standourt, Pardo a former El Tri star -- forwards Matias Vuoso, Vicente Sanchez and Daniel Montenegro, and defender Aquivaldo Mosquera.All are expected to play, but Lapuente promises the Aguilas' younger players -- such as defender Renato Gonzalez and midfielder Joaquin Martinez -- will see ample time. "Ours is a very solid team, very strong," Lapuente said, "and the younger guys have to step up."
Guatemala coach Ever Almeida is blooding a young side missing its biggest star -- former Galaxy forward Carlos Ruiz, now with Greece's Aris Thessaloniki and not available for the Central American championships -- and featuring just five regulars from the Chapines' abbreviated World Cup qualifying campaign.
America hasn't won a Mexican league title in more than five years -- remember: there are two champions every year -- but Lapuente made it clear that he considers his team the one to beat south of the border.
If you chanced to see the CIF State high school football bowl games a week before Christmas, you might be stunned to see the condition of the Home Depot Center field. It's green! Yes, the seams between rows of sod are visible, but after all that football (five games over two days) turned the field into muddy muck, who's going to complain?