Skip to content

Pressure shifts to Mexico for tonight’s World Cup qualifier versus the United States

Mar 26, 2013, 9:05 AM EDT

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier AP

The pressure may be off the United States national team for now – but the pulse remains rapid in its bitter border rivalry with Mexico.

All the heat of the ongoing hostilities between the region’s dominant men’s soccer powers has shifted toward Mexico for tonight’s World Cup qualifier. The venue, as always when the CONCACAF heavyweights meet south of the border, will be pulsating through the smoggy, thin and hostile air of Estadio Azteca.

The United States landed Sunday with fresh burst of confidence and evidence of improved team accord following Friday’s restorative 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the unforgettable snow globe that was DSG Park outside Denver.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s highly regarded team was finishing off its second consecutive disappointing result, a 2-2 draw at Honduras. That followed the Mexicans’ draw at home with Jamaica to open final stage World Cup qualifying – so fabled El Tri is winless after two rounds of play in the ongoing final round, saddled with just two of a possible six points.

That’s a full-on crisis in Mexico, where El Tri manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre is taking a beating in the press and in public confidence. A loss tonight to the United States would surely mark his Waterloo; kickoff from inside sold-out Azteca is set for 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN).

Obviously, the United States would love to steal a win and send the crowd of 100,000-plus home disappointed. But of the region’s six teams still alive for three automatic bids for World Cup 2014 in Brazil, none studied their final round schedules and circled Mexico as a place where points could be expected. Teams may generally come into Mexico City with dreams of something historic, but the real world is that they’d all be giddy just to steal a draw.

(MORE: Should Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics and choices be more conservative tonight?) 

The Americans, for instance, have one victory and one tie to go with 23 losses all-time in matches on Mexican soil. Mexico is a daunting 68-1-6 against all opposition in World Cup qualifiers inside Azteca.

That formidable dominance may have been slightly dented last August in a historic U.S. win; it was just a friendly, but a 1-0 upset over Mexico last summer remains among the highlights of coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 20-months in charge.

So with the weight of the world on Mexico tonight and plenty of home games ahead in 2012, the United States stands today in decidedly better mental shape than just four days ago, prior to the weighty match in Denver. Plus, players held a clear-the-air meeting before that Costa Rican contest, with apparent progress in closing the fissures revealed publicly in Brian Straus’ Sporting News piece.

“In the past stretch, even going back to the last stage of qualifying, the things that our team always has to be about,  the fight, the commitment … we looked at each other and said this isn’t what it needs to be,” veteran midfielder Michael Bradley said. “As we move forward and the big games come, in order for us to be a team that competes at the highest level that has to be at its absolute highest whenever we step on the field.”

(MORE: Bradley talks about the fight, commitment that prevailed Friday)

All that said, the United States still has questions along a battered back line, one missing its longtime captain Carlos Bocanegra (not selected), veteran right back Steve Cherundolo (injured) and two ailing young fullbacks.

First-choice goalkeeper Tim Howard is out with injury, too, although backup Brad Guzan continues to establish his trustworthiness at highest level through his work in U.S. goal and with defensively-challenged Aston Villa in England.

Jermaine Jones and Danny Williams, the team’s first choices in the holding midfield role, are also ailing and not available for this one.

(MORE: Looking at Jermaine Jones’ absence)

But neither is El Tri at full strength for this one. Center back Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez and left back Jorge Torres Nilo will miss due to yellow card accumulation.

Giovani dos Santos, who destroyed the U.S. back line last time these teams met in a meaningful match, back in the summer of 2011, seems to be missing some confidence.

But Mexico does have Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, a man as blessed with pure scoring instincts as anyone you’ll ever see. The Manchester United striker struck for both goals in Friday’s 2-2 draw in Honduras, and he will surely test the next version of a makeshift back line, whatever that looks like.

(Check back for much more later today at ProSoccerTalk)

Latest Posts
  1. New York City FC to announce “major signing” on Thursday… Frank Lampard?

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:16 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-BENFICA-CHELSEA Getty Images

    Will Lampard be suiting up at Yankee Stadium for NYC FC next season? We find out Thursday…

  2. Teams relocated outside of eastern Ukraine ahead of new season

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    waxtap AP

    The show will go on, but not in eastern Ukraine as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the military continues.

  3. World Cup winner Joachim Low will stay on as Germany’s manager

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Coach Joachim Low of Germany sings the National Anthem of Germany before their friendly soccer match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam Reuters

    German boss reveals he will stay on as manager until at least 2016. Can you smell a dynasty?

  4. Barcelona sign French defender Jeremy Mathieu for $27 million

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Everton's Robles and Valencia's Mathieu fight for the ball during a cornerkick at their Guinness International Champions Cup soccer match in Miami Gardens

    Substance over style: Barca sign towering defender from La Liga rivals Valencia.

  5. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez linked with move to Inter Milan

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT

    Manchester United's Javier Hernandez keeps the ball from Newcastle's Cheik Ismael Tiote during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super) AP

    Will the Mexican international be moving on this summer?

  6. “Luis Suarez treated like a murderer” – Former Liverpool teammate Iago Aspas

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Aspas to Spanish radio: “They are treating Luis like a murderer and not like a footballer.”

  7. Ashley Cole hits back at critics, takes a swipe at Major League Soccer

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:07 AM EDT

    Juventus v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Cole: “People were killing me about possibly playing in the USA, saying it’s for the money and easy lifestyle, I choose to play in a more demanding place and team.”

  8. Louis van Gaal criticizes Manchester United’s U.S. tour schedule

    Jul 23, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    France v Netherlands - International Friendly Getty Images

    Van Gaal: “You have to fly a lot, you also have jetlag – that is not very positive for a good preparation. The tour was already arranged so I have to adapt.”

  9. Omar Gonzalez still dreams of Europe but “committed to the Galaxy”

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT

    Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez AP

    L.A. Galaxy Insider report also speculates that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez could take a Designated Player spot in Major League Soccer if he leaves Old Trafford.

  10. Reds’ Rodgers won’t be baited into criticizing “sensational” Suarez

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    “It’s obviously a shame he’s not here, but Liverpool is a club that’s bigger as any individual,” Rodgers said from Fenway Park.

  11. Cardiff’s promotion hopes take hit: Caulker to QPR; Medel to Inter?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

    steven-caulker-interview-160064-1775672_1600x900

    Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers have swooped in for two of the Bluebirds’ best players, and Vincent Tan probably isn’t too happy.

  12. EXCLUSIVE: Luke Shaw speaks out about Manchester United move

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Manchester United Courtesy: Manchester United

    Shaw speaks to PST: “Manchester United are the biggest club in the world. I didn’t think twice when they wanted to sign me.”

  13. Pep Guardiola praises Jurgen Klinsmann’s team concept, USMNT movement

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

    Jurgen_Klinsmann_1381686c AP

    When a guy many consider a footballing genius gives the United States coach praise, that’s a pretty cool feather in Klinsmann’s cap.

  14. Premier League teams on US Soil: Tuesday’s roundup and look ahead

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    10406860_10101280893066982_394995962427761541_n

    Premier Leaguers in the U.S. on Tuesday = A day of open training sessions, autographs, football helmets and golf clubs.

  15. Racial incident against Man City’s Fofana ends U-21 match in Croatia

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    twitter.com/sekofofana twitter.com/sekofofana

    The 19-year-old is a promising prospect, but is dealing with negative headlines after being subject to abuse on Tuesday in Croatia.

  16. Southampton fail in bid to bring England WC goalie back to Premier League

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    England Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Fraser Forster will be sticking at Celtic, for now, after Southampton reportedly lowballed the Scottish powers.

  17. Beckham visits Manchester United; Team responds with many ‘selfies’

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    BtLQf7KCQAAehgb

    Hand on shoulder, hair-coiffed, warm smile… next! Becks makes the rounds on the United’s U.S. tour.