Mar 26, 2013, 9:05 AM EDT
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.
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.”
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.
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)
May 27, 2015, 6:55 AM EDT
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch speaks about the FBI’s investigation into widespread allegations of corruption at FIFA.
FIFA fallout continues: Swiss authorities open criminal proceedings into allocation of 2018, 2022 World Cups
May 27, 2015, 6:08 AM EDT
Mark down May 27, 2015 as perhaps the lowest point in FIFA’s history.
May 27, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT
FIFA officials from CONCACAF region and South America dominate the FBI’s wanted list.
May 27, 2015, 12:44 AM EDT
An unprecedented blow to the upper tier of FIFA’s personnel structure could be the beginning of a sweeping takedown of the organization’s corrupt inner workings.
May 26, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT
Toronto FC has put a “projected Starting XI” on Twitter, one that includes Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco.
May 26, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT
Well, the Premier League season has been over for a solid 59 hours, and we shouldn’t let it get to 60 without digging through the muck that is the transfer rumor mill.
May 26, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
All-in-all, he’s played for 11 clubs — four on loan — and only one for more than 30 matches (Standard Liege).
May 26, 2015, 8:36 PM EDT
He finished off the speech with a brilliant line regarding Chelsea, “They played from August till May and sometimes they brought the bus.”
May 26, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
Chicharito’s career will make an interesting case study when all’s said and done.
May 26, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT
“Surely he knows … that outside of the voting chambers, that the world … the players and supporters, want change,” Delaney said.
May 26, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
The USMNT faces Germany on June 10 in Cologne after a June 5 date at Amsterdam Arena against the Netherlands.
May 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
A great deal of clubs can find young talent on our list, as the 2014-15 season review continues.
May 26, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
Napoli finished fourth in Serie A, and made it to the Europa League semifinal before being bounced by Dnipro.
May 26, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT
This list will tend to include more high-profile names than low-risk moves that didn’t pan out.
May 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT
Find out which 11 players shone during the final matchday of the 2014-15 PL season.
May 26, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT
The grades are in… Let’s see who is top of the class.
May 26, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT
A hat trick hero finished the season off in style. Find out who was the best in the PL during the final week of the season.
May 26, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor reflects on another action-packed PL season.
May 26, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT
West Ham’s 2015-16 season will now kick off on July 2.
May 26, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT
Will the 37-year-old finally make his long-rumored switch to MLS this summer?
- FBI, US Department of Justice issues damning statement on FIFA, details corruption investigation 1
- FIFA fallout continues: Swiss authorities open criminal proceedings into allocation of 2018, 2022 World Cups 0
- Nine FIFA officials, including CONCACAF president, arrested in Switzerland during dawn raids 3
- Report: Multiple FIFA officials arrested in Zurich, will be extradited to United States 3
- Mourinho rips Top 4 rivals at awards dinner; Takes extra shot at Wenger’s Arsenal 1
- Premier League Grades: How did each team fare in 2014-15? 7