A soccer match pitting USA against Mexico has become a friendly Independence Day tradition in Scott County.
(WBIR - Oneida) The United States and Mexico both made it to the knockout stage of this summer's World Cup. Both squads were then promptly knocked out of the tournament in the round of 16.
But Friday morning, the United States played a big soccer match against Mexico in Scott County.
In this case, "USA" were players who normally get together for a pickup game in Oneida while the "Mexico" team was comprised of workers at the local Mexican restaurant. The collision between the palate and the pitch has become an annual tradition.
"This is just a cool thing we do in Scott County. We've been doing this for six years," said Adam Morrow. "It's just really great for the community because it brings everyone together on the Fourth of July and we all have a lot of fun."
"This is a small town but it actually has a really good soccer community. We have a big group of guys who play pickup games every Monday night. Anyone can come out. The more the merrier," said Devin Welch. "When the Mexican restaurant came in [to Oneida], we became friends with the owners and a lot of the people who work there. They started coming out and playing in our pickup games. One Fourth of July, we decided to have a game between USA and Mexico."
"I love it. We always lose, but have fun," said Lorenzo Garcia, the owner of El Rey Azteca restaurant in Oneida. "We look forward to this every year."
Garcia opened the Mexican restaurant in Oneida nine years ago. As the boss, he is able to choose his position on the pitch for the Mexico squad.
"I play goalie, because I do not like to run too much," laughed Garcia.
The teams wear custom kits for Mexico and USA. Family and friends line the edge of the pitch in chairs and bleachers at the Oneida Elementary School field.
Garcia's team also receives some Scott County aid.
"Most of my team are workers at the restaurant and also some guys from Oneida," said Garcia.
"A lot of times they don't have enough players to play," said Morrow. "Today, I'm playing for Mexico. I've got a friend with me in town from Spain, so we wanted to play on the same team and decided to help Mexico out."
When asked if there was any emotional conflict to play against the United States, on the Fourth of July of all days, Morrow pointed out everyone in the match is proud to call this country home.
"Well, we're all Americans right here. It's not that different [playing for Mexico]. It's fun. I get to hang out with my friends and have a great time," said Morrow. "Maybe I'll feed some information over to the Americans."
"We put them on the Mexican team to give them a boost, but I think we gave them too many good players this year because one of them [Morrow's friend from Spain] scored," said Welch.
Make no mistake, the game is both friendly and competitive. You can credit Independence Day inspiration for helping the USA squad remain undefeated in six years. Friday morning's match ended in a 1-1 draw, bringing USA's all-time record in Scott County to four wins and two ties against Mexico.
"We have not lost yet. We want to win. We call this the 'Gold Cup' and have a little trophy," said Welch. "We always remind them when we go to El Rey that we have the cup."
While the national rivalry gimmick adds some spice to a friendly match, everyone is on the same team off the field.
"No matter what, we have fun," said Garcia. "We play today because we close the restaurant for the Fourth of July. We look forward to this day all year. I wish we could do it even more."
"It's just something we can all get together and have fun doing. Especially on the Fourth of July," said Morrow.
That patriotic bond between everyone on the pitch in a nation of immigrants makes the game in Oneida especially beautiful.