Goal.com takes a glance at a positional breakdown of Wednesday night's big CONCACAF showdown.Goalkeepers
USA: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
Mexico: Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jose De Jesus Corona (Tecos)
Both teams come into the match with experienced goalkeepers in the form of Tim Howard and Oswaldo Sanchez, but Guillermo Ochoa may be Mexico's best chance at leveling the goalkeeping field.
Howard has been on fire over the last few weeks for Everton. His performance in a recent 1-0 loss to Manchester United was fantastic, and should the good form continue, the 29-year-old will give the Americans a decided advantage between the pipes.
The 35-year-old Sanchez is likely to get the start for Mexico. The Santos Laguna star is a gifted player who presents a presence in the box that the younger Ochoa has failed show. Still, the 23-year-old Ochoa is already an accomplished shot blocker for Club America. If he gets the nod, his speed and reflexes might be to the advantage of the Mexicans where he to be the starter on Wednesday.
Advantage: USA. Howard's form right now is simply too good.
USA: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
Mexico: Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart), Rafael Márquez (Barcelona), Aaron Galindo (Guadalajara), Leobardo Lopez (Pachuca)
Bocanegra and Onyewu highlight the center of the American backline, but they will be surrounded by one aging veteran and young players who might not be ready for the big stage. While the U.S.'s two trees in the middle certainly can control the box in the air, Mexico's quick passing and combination play could trouble the less-than-swift pairing.
Hejduk will more than likely be penciled in to start on the right with Bornstein on the left. However, Bob Bradley does have some options with Bocanegra being able to play on the flank and Danny Califf slotting into the middle. Don't hold your breath on that one.
Mexico's defensive line will be led once again by the impeccable Rafael Marquez, who is the most accomplished defender in CONCACAF, maybe ever. He seems to be back in form for Barca after picking up a knock a couple of weeks ago, and scored a stunning freekick last week in the Copa del Rey.
Likely joining Marquez will be Carlos Salcido, a 28-year-old classy veteran, and Ricardo Osorio, another veteran with over 60 caps for Mexico.
Then the questions come. The other four defenders on Mexico's roster could all slot in, but do not provide the same class as Marquez, Salcido, and Osorio. Fausto Pinto, listed as a midfielder on Mexico's roster, could also slot in as a left back and would be a good counter measure to Landon Donovan's pace.
The Mexican back line will once again be tested by the Americans counterattack and set piece play.
Advantage: Mexico. While the American backline is solid, the Mexican defense provides the strength of El Tri, and Marquez is light years ahead of anyone else on the field.
USA: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
Mexico: Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul), Pavel Pardo (America), Leandro Augusto (Pumas), Luis Perez (Monterrey), Israel Martinez (San Luis), Antonio Naelson (Toluca)
The midfield is a dicey situation for both managers, who each have players listed as forwards that are likely to drop back into midfield roles.
The US will almost certainly have Michael Bradley and DeMarcus Beasley in their normal roles, but questions about who will join Bradley in the center--Ricardo Clark and Sacha Kljestan seem the most likely--and who will run the right flank make this the hardest position to analyze for the USA.
On the one hand, Clark would provide the hard tackling presence to break down Mexico's possession. On the other, Kljestan gives the Americans more punch going forward.
But the real question is at right midfield: Either Dempsey or Donovan could take that role. Dempsey is a far better defender, and probably more adept at playing on the flank, but Donovan's pace is a threat from the wide spots. The more defensive option, which is likely, is to play with Dempsey on the right with Donovan playing up front.
El Tri have a number of options in the midfield. Pavel Pardo, Mexico's brilliant 32-year-old defensive midfielder, is a shoo-in. Beyond that, Sven-Goran Eriksson's options are wide open, especially with the absence of regular first-teamer Andres Guardado, who was injured recently playing for Deportivo la Coruna. Antonio Naelson is a likely option to team with Pardo in a central role. Mexican starlet Giovani Dos Santos could also provide an attacking presence out of the midfield, but is probably better suited to run the flank as he has for his club, Tottenham Hotspur, this season.
If Mexico decides to go more defensive, Pinto could also be asked to play on the left side of midfield. Pinto seems to be variable in the lineup.
Advantage: Push. While the possession advantage is probably going to be in favor of Mexico, the US should be better at creating chances out of the midfield. We'll call it a push.
USA: Jozy Altidore (Xerez C.D.), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF) Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Bayern Munich)
Mexico: Alberto Medina (Guadalajara), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham), Matias Vuoso (Santos), Carlos Ochoa (Guadalajara), Nery Castillo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal), Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruña)
Mexico, as always, boasts plenty of firepower, with Nery Castillo, Omar Bravo, Guillermo Franco, and Matias Vuoso all as options up front, plus the speedy Dos Santos. All five players possess the talent to cause lots of trouble.
However, they have struggled in front of goal lately when they've donned the Mexico green. Until this group proves they can score consistently on the international stage they have to be considered the weak link.
The shame is the loss of Carlos Vela, who received a red card in Mexico's last qualifier. Vela is arguably the best finisher of in el Tri's stable, and his absence seriously dents their scoring capabilities.
The Americans have similar problems. Dempsey or Donovan will be counted on to play up front, most likely beside Brian Ching, who will resume his role as the target striker. All three are opportunistic scorers. Dempsey-Ching would give the U.S. a large, technically sound frontline. However, it is more likely that Bradley will go with a Donovan-Ching matchup, if for no other reason than the success the Bayern player has previously enjoyed counterattacking the Mexican backline.
Xerez striker Jozy Altidore is an intriguing option, but unlikely to see much time in a game of this magnitude. And Hammarby forward Charlie Davies' struggles in the Sweden match proved that he is not quite ready for the big stage, although his speed could be a powerful weapon late in the game.
Advantage: USA. Mexico's front line is clearly a very talented group, but tight matches often rest on capitalizing when chances fall your way, and the American strike force has proven more capable lately.
Allen Ramsey, Goal.com