Mission Possible US Soccer visits Mexico in big World Cup Qualifier

The stats have been discussed ad nauseum. The US has never beaten Mexico at Azteca Stadium. Azteca Stadium rests over 7,000 feet above sea level in smog so thick it would gag Los Angeles finest. Over 100,000 rabid Mexican fans will hurl the most vile insults, beer, coins and possibly body fluids at the US players.

The odds are against the US but sooner or later, the 0-22-1 streak is bound to end. The pressure is squarely on the backs of Mexico at 6 points trailing Costa Rico 12 points, the US 10 points and Honduras 7 points with only four games remaining to qualify for World Cup 2010 after tomorrows clash. Only the top three teams automatically qualify for South Africa.

Beating Mexico would be a tremendous outcome not only putting the US a step closer to winning the group but dropping Mexico into a desperate situation. However, the main objective needs to be playing hard and playing smart. The US beat Spain in the Confederations Cup and came close against Brazil by playing tight defense and counterattacking. The same tactics will work against Mexico especially with the pressure from 100,000  fans who will turn on their heroes if they fail to score against the US.

Bob Bradley took some flak by fielding a group of inexperienced players in the Gold Cup, losing to Mexico 5-0 in the finals. That decision could prove to be a stroke of genius as the US will have their full complement of players healthy, and rested to face Mexico. The back four returns intact with Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector the likely starters. Right back Steve Cherrundolo also returns from injury to provide depth.

Landon Donovan v Mexico 2007

Landon Donovan v Mexico 2007

The midfield will probably be similar the the Confederations Cup lineup with Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark locking down the center while Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey out wide. Donovan and Dempsey need to reclaim the energy and determination they sowed against Spain to keep Mexico off the scoring sheet.

The tough choice for Bob Bradley will be deciding if he wants to go with a single forward or leave two up top. The likely choice in a single forward set would be the slow but steady Brian Ching. 

The pairing of Jozy Altidore and

Jozy Altidore (l) and Charlie Davies(r)

Jozy Altidore (l) and Charlie Davies(r)

Charlie Davies worked wonders in South Africa and both are returning from Europe after signing with Hull City in England and FC Sochaux in France respectively. 

 

 

 

 Mexico will be without defender Rafael Marquez out with a calf injury sustained during Barcelona’s tour of America. The danger from Mexico comes from the speed and skill of Giovani do Santos, Carlos Vela, and Nery Castillo. Holding them down is a formidable task but not as much of a challenge as either Spain of Brazil.

The US should ride a wave of confidence into this match knowing that a draw would damage Mexico almost as much a s a loss. If they play with the intensity and determination that kept them in the game against the world’s two best teams, they can steal a point fom Mexico. A bit of luck and the entire three points is there for the taking. A loss would be a disappointment but not disaterous unless it followed the lines of the 5-o Gold Cup demolition.

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~ by zrwoodard on August 12, 2009.

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