By Noah Davis and Luis Bueno
Who: United States vs.
What: CONCACAF World
Cup 2010 Qualifying
When: Wednesday, Aug.
12, 2009, 3 p.m. EST
Where: Estadio Azteca;
Mexico City, Mexico
TV: Telemundo and Mun2
It's a match that's been highly
anticipated since the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying draw came out last
November: United States Men's National Team against Mexico in the lofty
heights of Estadio Azteca. El Tri's resounding 5-0 thumping of the Americans
in late July's Gold Cup final only served to raise the stakes a bit
Unlike in Giants Stadium, however, both coaches will bring their
best lineups to the vital qualifier. For Bob Bradley, that means almost
an entirely new squad -- certainly a completely different Starting XI
-- while Javier Aguirre's will likely feature some familiar faces,
most notably Giovanni Dos Santos, who proved unstoppable in July, and
Carlos Vela, who dramatically altered the match after coming on in the
46th minute. To Azteca!
Reverse the Curse
With its Gold Cup victory,
Mexico finally ended a decade-long losing streak on American soil. The
U.S. has a chance to stop an even longer span of futility with a win
on Wednesday. In 19 tries, the Americans have never won in the stadium
that sits in the smog above 7,000 feet. The team's best result: a 0-0
tie in 1997.
The Red, White, and Blue supporters, however, feel confident
about the possibility of earning three points, a result that would simultaneously
essentially qualify the U.S. for the World Cup and give Mexico a difficult
road to South Africa. If there's ever a time for the improving Americans
to win, it's now against an unusually weak Mexico side.
Landon Donovan has spent the
summer proving yet again he's the best field player on the American
team. Never a big fan of Mexico, the Los Angeles Galaxy captain came
out and said he wasn't traveling to Azteca for a single point.
It's a bold statement but you have to like the (justified) confidence
from the 27-year-old. He and his team played some of their best soccer
in the latter stages of the Confederations Cup and want nothing more
than to avenge for the U.S. loss in Giants Stadium. But Donovan is not
only the team's biggest mouth; he's also the most important player for
the Americans. If he blinks in the early stages of Wednesday's match,
he better start thinking of reasons why the Stars and Stripes came back
from Mexico pointless.
Mexico - Base of the Squad
The biggest questions regarding Mexico
entering the match seem to be the players manager Javier Aguirre will
utilize. It seems a given that Guillermo Ochoa will start in goal, and
other locks appear to be Giovani Dos Santos, Gerardo Torrado, Andres
Guardado, and Carlos Salcido. But who will Aguirre plug in around them?
Will Cuauhtemoc Blanco be fit enough to play the entire 90 minutes,
after having played on Sunday night? Does Aguirre use the Gold Cup
players as the base and plug in regulars around them, or do the
regulars take a back seat to the Gold Cup heroes? Given Aguirre's track
record of trimming established players from the team -- he had a much
more severe housecleaning in 2001 -- it would not be a surprise to see
Gold Cup players such as Efrain Juarez, Israel Castro, and Miguel Sabah
play integral roles in this match.
Confidence, Or Overconfidence?
Mexico's stunning 5-0 Gold
Cup win was a fantastic shot of confidence for a Mexican team that
seemed so distraught in June. But to think that a one-month turnaround
will suddenly transform Mexico back to the early 90s when El Tri still
dominated the region and trounced opponents by three or more goals
regularly is to assume incorrectly.
As Mexican players have said, the
Gold Cup is over and it is time to move on from that. Confidence should
be had in the young players' ability to perform on a big stage and the
national team's depth pool but this particular squad needs to show up
and not rely on lingering feelings from the Gold Cup to boost the team.
Projected U.S. Lineup
Projected Mexico Lineup
United States 1-2 Mexico (Noah)
United States 1-0 Mexico (Luis)
Noah Davis covers the U.S. team for Goal.com
Luis Bueno is the Mexico editor for Goal.com
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