PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25: Israel Castro # 8 of Mexico controls the ball against Landon Donovan #10 of the United States during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The United States heads to Estadio Azteca to play CONCACAF's best, Mexico, and it could get ugly.
It used to be that whenever the United States played Mexico, the title of "Best Team in CONCACAF" was on the line. The Americans spent most of the 2000's edging out their southern neighbors, but they did not dominate Mexico. El Tri still held serve on home soil and played the Yanks tough in the U.S. It was a tough, sometimes nasty and always entertaining match with plenty on the line.
The rivalry has completely changed in the last two years, though and on Wednesday, the U.S. will head to Mexico City's heat, smog and altitude, walk into a stadium filled to the brim with more than 100,000 fans and there will be absolutely nothing on the line. Seriously, not a thing.
Right now there is no doubt that Mexico is the best team in the region. In fact, the U.S. is much closer to the third, fourth or maybe even fifth best team in CONCACAF than they are to Mexico and a win over El Tri at Azteca in some August friendly isn't going to change that.
It's not as if the U.S. is likely to beat Mexico anyways. Putting aside that Mexico are better right now, the Americans are winless on Mexican soil in 24 matches, having just one draw to show for all of their trips south of the border.
More importantly than that, the U.S. is not sending their best team to the Azteca. Because the European club season starts this weekend, Jurgen Klinsmann did not call in many of his best European based players, which means that the team that will take on Mexico is composed primarily of MLS and Liga MX players. That isn't quite the type of team that the U.S. can realistically expect to beat Mexico with.
The U.S. are really going to have problems in defense with the team that they have called in. Fabian Johnson should hold down the left flank just fine and do a reasonable job taking Pablo Barrera out of the match, but elsewhere, the U.S. are in trouble. Geoff Cameron, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Matt Besler are the team's only three centerbacks and none have proven themselves to be quality international players. They may be, but they aren't right now and at the Azteca against a Mexican team full of confidence isn't the best place for inexperienced defenders to figure things out.
It's not as if the Mexicans are taking this match lightly either. While they aren't going into win-at-all costs mode and some of the better players are off the team after playing in the Olympics, El Tri still have Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Barrera and Jesus Zavala, among others. That is three-quarters of the team's attacking quartet and their best central midfielder, which will certainly pressure the U.S. defense. Yes, that same U.S. defense that has just one-quarter of their first choice players and is incredibly inexperienced.
Friendlies aren't about wins and losses, which is good for the U.S. This match may pay dividends down the road as these young players take the experience of playing at the Azteca and use it to grow, but it probably won't be pretty on Wednesday. This is Mexico's region, Mexico's rivalry and on Wednesday, it will probably be Mexico's match.
Mexico vs. United States
Game Date: Wednesday, August 15
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico