For Nick Monteleone, his favorite player didn't make the trip, but that didn't keep him from the red, green and white of Chase Field on Wednesday night.
"Mexico is a great footballing nation, they have a great team," the Ahwatukee Foothills man said. "We were sitting at an English pub over here, having our first beer, and I told these guys we have to get down there and get the atmosphere. Fans are passionate, man, that's part of what's great about football."
The 25,587 overwhelmingly partisan Mexican crowd saw its heroes pull out a thriller with Vicente Matias Vuoso scoring in the fourth minute of injury time seconds from the final whistle, to give Mexico a 2-1 win over Ecuador in a soccer exhibition on Wednesday night at the Diamondbacks' ballpark.
The usual flags, horns and sombreros were out in force in downtown Phoenix for the latest appearance of the Mexican national team in Arizona.
The Mexicans and Ecuadorians played a tentative game with Ecuador scoring early on a header from a couple of yards out by Issac Mina in the eighth minute. But Mexico answered early in the second half. Israel Martinez took a corner kick in the 50th minute, crossing to Leobardo Lopez, who knocked it in with his head from inside the 6-meter box.
Mexico had several chances to take the lead in the second half, but the shots went awry and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made a sparkling save on an Ecuadorian shot in the 71st minute to keep it tied.
The result was the least of the worries for Monteleone, who was wearing a jersey of Rafael Marquez, a Mexican defender who did not make the trip to stay with his club team, Barcelona of Spain. Monteleone's buddy, Sean Wolcott of Scottsdale, said he was ready to soak up the atmosphere of the relatively small, but noisy fiesta.
"I want to see top-level football," Wolcott said. "All the noise and crowd makes it more fun."
Monteleone was jazzed when told a movement was afoot to bring a top minor league professional team to the Valley.
"I'll be the first season-ticket holder," he said.
Meanwhile, the South American team's fans were outnumbered 50-to-1 and were mostly confined to a section along what is normally the left-field corner. The field was laid out with one end line just outside the first-base foul line and the other in front of the left-field bleachers.
The fans settled down for a short time after the early Ecuadorian goal, but that changed after halftime.
Fans of the "el tri," as fans of Mexico and the tri-color flag call the national team, came from far and wide to take in the game.
"You get to see the players you see on TV every week," said Miguel Romero of Tucson, decked out in a national team jersey and wrapped in a Mexican flag.
"The idea is to get here early and stay here all day long. It's a big old party, it's a ritual type of thing."