Michael Orozco was born in Orange, but there was a lot pushing him towards playing international football in green. His parents are both Mexican. He grew up speaking fluent Spanish. His childhood hero was *El Tri *legend Jorge Campos. He joined San Luis as a teenager and made his pro debut for them. And, aside from one season on loan at Philadelphia Union, he’s spent his entire club career in Mexico.
Orozco’s dream was always, nevertheless, to represent USA, and after doing so at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in 2008, he debuted for the senior Stars and Stripes later that same year and has since won 28 caps. The one he’s best-remembered for came in 2012: the defender’s maiden international goal ended USA’s 75-year wait for their first victory away to Mexico.
“To this day, everybody talks about that goal – friends, family members, coaches, team-mates,” the 30-year-old, now based just inside the Mexican-American border at Tijuana, told US Soccer. “They call me* ‘El Historico’ *(laughs).
"In my heart it was a dream. To play for the US against Mexico at the Azteca, and to give my country victory, is something that I’m very proud of. It’s good that everybody remembers that goal. Hopefully there’s more to come and I can play more US-Mexico matches and we can get more victories.”
USA and Mexico will kick off the fifth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ against one another on 11 November. And the Americans have, predictably, chosen to host the showdown in Columbus, Ohio for the fifth consecutive time in the ‘Hexagonal’ phase of the preliminaries – they have won the previous four all 2-0.
Orozco said: “My Mexican team-mates are always talking about this game – why it’s [in Columbus], because of the 2-0. We’re home there. That’s our home field. When we play in Columbus, it’s 100 per cent Americans, and they support us from minute one to the 90th minute. It feels good.
"We always win there, and it’s been 2-0 for a long time. Hopefully it will stay that way again, but if we score three or four goals I’ll be happier. It’s the big game in CONCACAF.”
Orozco may have been born in California, but he constantly has to answer questions about his international allegiance.
“At times it’s difficult,” he said. ”You have team-mates that are always going to agree and disagree with the national team you play for, what country you represent, and why you didn’t chose Mexico – us Mexican-Americans get that a lot.
"I’m happy to represent the United States in every game and every minute. My parents always supported me and are happy that I chose the United States. It is the country where I was born and is the country that has given me opportunities and my family. It motivates me that my family has supported me.”
USA are bidding to qualify for an eighth straight World Cup. They reached the semi-finals at Uruguay 1930 and eliminated Mexico en route to the quarters at Korea/Japan 2002.
Only Brazil (20), Germany (18), Italy (18) and Argentina (16) have appeared in more World Cups than Mexico (15), who have fell at the Round of 16 in six successive editions of the tournament.