Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
There’s a lot of activity at the new soccer stadium in the heart of the Grand Canyon University campus.
By Thursday evening of last week, the grass had been mowed in stripes, the soccer nets had gone up and a GCU banner wrapped the fencing along the stadium’s east end. Friday, the fences around the stadium had been covered for privacy, and word around campus was that arguably the most popular soccer team in the U.S. — Mexico — would be visiting soon. And then it happened Monday morning when the Mexican team walked onto the new field, ready to practice.
“Talk about an event,” GCU men’s soccer coach Schellas Hyndman said after shaking hands with Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Initially, both Mexico and Uruguay were scheduled to practice at the new field last week before their Copa America Centenario opener Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. However, they canceled their request because of an excessive heat warning.
Monday’s visit came after Mexico showed its title credentials with a 3-1 victory over Uruguay. The tournament, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the historic South American international men’s association soccer championship, is being held in the United States for the first time, and Glendale is one of 10 sites.
“How cool is this? We’ve got the national team of Mexico, which is currently rated as the top 16 in the world, as the first team to train on the field,” Hyndman said.
Considering that soccer is the most popular sport in west Phoenix, Hyndman said he could not think of a better time to receive a national team.
“I’ve said that I want this facility to be not only GCU’s but also the stadium of Phoenix,” Hyndman said. “We’ve got the weather, a community that supports soccer, a president who wants championship events here. … It really could be one of the best atmospheres in collegiate soccer, and I’d be very happy if it became the best facility in the country.”
The new stadium, which has natural grass, 2,800 shaded seats and 10-foot berms to allow larger crowds, is scheduled to hold its grand opening in August. It’s no wonder the men’s soccer coach has a lot to rave about.
“I really believe it’s the best college soccer stadium I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The visiting soccer team thought so, too, including Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico’s goalkeeper.
After a one-hour practice that included running, passing, blocking and shooting goals at GCU’s new stadium, Ochoa was impressed by the condition of the field.
“The temperatures are high, but we are very grateful because very rarely do we find a field that is in good condition,” Ochoa said. “I can say that the field has served us extremely well. … I think we’re ready for our next match.”
Ochoa also commended the huge sea of red, white and green super fans who supported their win over Uruguay.
Mexico plays at a number of stadiums across the globe, but its home stadium, Estadio Azteca, has what is considered the loudest atmosphere in international soccer.
“Because we play at Azteca we are accustomed to the large number of fans,” he said. “With Arizona being so close to Mexico, fans from our native country have had the opportunity to support us in the United States, and we know that wherever we go, the stadiums will be jam-packed with our supporters.”
Mexico has been a regular participant in the Copa America tournament, has won more Gold Cups than any other team and consistently has finished in the top three in the tournament since it was founded.
Mexico next plays Jamaica on Thursday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.