COLUMBIA — Missouri and Texas A&M’s soccer rivalry goes way back, but it isn’t nearly as tenured as the relationship between the men on the sidelines in Thursday night’s SEC matchup.
Tigers coach Bryan Blitz — who helped start Missouri’s soccer program in 1996 — has known Aggies coach G Guerrieri — who helped start Texas A&M’s program in 1993 — since they were college teammates at the University of Tulsa.
They’ve been rivals on the field for the better part of 20 years, but it’s their off-the-pitch friendship that is unique. The two speak on the phone weekly, talking about their marriages, children, and of course, the game they love.
Guerrieri and Blitz have also been sharing notes on their new SEC opponents over the phone since the offseason. Having such a confidant has likely helped Missouri and Texas A&M adapt well to the conference change.
This week this all changes.
"We’ve been best friends," Guerrieri said in a phone interview. "But for about two hours once a year, we turn that off."
Blitz' description of game day takes the intensity to a new level:
"On that day," Blitz said, "we want to kill each other."
Those two hours are scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday in College Station, Texas.
Texas A&M has long been a soccer powerhouse, and this year is no different. The Aggies (15-3-1) are expected to be selected to their 18th-straight NCAA tournament Nov. 5, and Guerrieri has taken his teams to the Elite Eight four times.
Missouri (13-5) is trying to make the tournament for the first time since 2008 as well as continue its success against the Aggies. In their 16 seasons in the Big 12, the Aggies only lost 25 total conference games, and the Tigers were responsible for six of those losses.
“(Missouri’s) system has evolved this year, they’ve got some really scary players,” Guerrieri said. “They play with a good level of flair.”
Texas A&M has already locked up the SEC’s Western division, while Missouri is third in the Eastern division. It will be the final regular season game for both teams before the SEC tournament next week.
The action on the field will be intense, but it will be nothing compared to the love lost on the sideline.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.