Sep 9, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
On Tuesday night in Columbus, the U.S. national team will face a wounded animal in arch rivals Mexico.
Just four days after head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre was given his marching orders, El Tri have to focus on a game that will be pivotal as they aim to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
A shock loss to Honduras on Friday cost De la Torre his job, and now the Mexican national side are embroiled in a five way Hexagonal battle to seal an automatic berth for Brazil 2014.
Despite all the upheaval over the past few days, the U.S. is expecting a fired up Mexico to roll into Columbus Crew Stadium on Tuesday and USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard believes Mexico’s struggles are something to be worried about.
“Tuesday night they’re going to be a heck of a team to play against, ” Howard said. “They’re not going to be this wounded animal that everyone thinks they are. I think when it comes to this game, we’re fearful of what Mexico brings. They’re a tough team no matter what anyone says about how they’re playing at the moment or what they’re going through. It doesn’t matter.”
Howard’s right, Mexico’s vulnerability must not be underestimate by Jurgen Klinsmann and his players.
Luckily that’s something USMNT head coach Klinsmann also believes, as Mexico aim to derail the USA’s chances of sealing qualification in front of a passionate crowd in Columbus, Ohio. Klinsi also acknowledged the job De la Torre did while in charge of Mexico and said he was sad to see him go. But with the national team showing all this respect towards Mexico, despite El Tri languishing in fourth spot in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with three games to go, do U.S. fans share that sentiment?
I’d hazard an educated guess and say no.
Many national team fans will have enjoyed watching the USA’s biggest soccer rivals struggle through this qualifying campaign, yet this could all be leading up to an almighty backlash from the Mexican team. Scoring struggles at the Azteca, coming off the back of a damaging defeat to Honduras and losing their coach will add further fury to a side that already has their backs against the wall.
Sometimes that brings out the best in teams. And with a hostile environment awaiting them in Columbus on Tuesday evening the Mexican players need to fight for each other, fight for every ball and they will be more aware than ever that Mexico’s presence at the 2014 World Cup hangs in the balance.
Are the USMNT playing mind games by sharing all of this respect for Mexico? Or are they genuinely frightened by what El Tri has to offer? Either way, the US know a win could likely seal World Cup qualification tomorrow, but perhaps more importantly a loss for Mexico could see their World Cup dream slip further away from their grasp.
This clash between two CONCACAF giants is set up to be an absolutely beauty in Ohio. Both sides are desperate to win, both sides are eager to bounce back after defeats… something has to give.
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