Sure hands

Ex-Mexican National Teamer hosts clinic ahead of Saturday's match

The CONCACAF Gold Cup doesn’t start for another week.

And unlike 2005, 2009, and 2013, CenturyLink Field won’t host a single match in the 12-team biyearly tournament.

Seattle wasn’t left completely out of the fray, hosting the Mexican National Team in its final tune-up against Paraguay on Saturday evening, likely in front of a predominantly pro-El Tri contingent.

Adolfo Ríos knows what that’s like. Three dozen times, he was in net for Mexico in international competition, including a pair of third-place runs in the 1997 and 1999 Copa América.

“It’s amazing,” he said of representing his home country. “It’s proud, because when I was a kid, I dreamed of that moment.”

To this day, he says, standing on the field pre-game as the crowds sang the country’s national anthem remains one of his favorite memories. 

“When I tried to sing, I couldn’t,” he said. “Because the moment, it was amazing.”

That national team duty was only part of a career that spanned nearly two decades in the Mexican first division (Liga MX), but it’s been nearly 15 years since the now-50 year old last played professionally.

Not that you could tell on Friday.

The 5-foot-9 goalkeeper sprawled out on a newly refurbished Beacon Hill Playfield (1902 13th Ave.) time and again, hosting a clinic for approximately 15 aspiring young soccer players. Earlier in the day representatives from Allstate worked to install new goals and nets, along with new bleachers and benches, and made repairs to the field itself, before giving a group of players from the Seattle Youth Soccer Association the first crack at the new upgrades in the presence of a Mexican soccer mainstay.

Though, Ríos’ appearance wasn’t the only notable one on the afternoon.

Also on site was what Mexico will be playing for later this month; the actual Gold Cup. Seattle is the first stop of Allstate’s trophy tour this summer, as the “Official Protector of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.”

Ríos called Friday’s event, and the other clinics he’s done with the insurance giant over the past several years, a “great opportunity” to give something in return for all the sport has given him.

“Each event is different, because the kids are different, the boys are different, the clinics are different, the places are different,” he said.

With a large crowd expected for Saturday’s friendly —games in 2008 and 2011 drew over 50,000 fans, while a 2013 Gold Cup matchup drew just shy of 30,000 — Ríos said there’s a powerful connection between Mexican expats and the national team.

“They stay in the United States, working for their families,” he said. “It’s difficult, but they have a connection with the team.”

That’s not to mention the Seattle’s soccer reputation with its support of the Sounders.

“The federation can see that too,” he said. “That’s why the Mexican National Team is here.”

Though young soccer hopefuls were the ones to get Ríos’s attention on Friday, fans of all ages can meet the former goalkeeper, and get pictures with the Gold Cup trophy prior to Saturday’s match at the “Allstate Protection Zone,” at CenturyLink Field. 

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