Like us to subscribe
It may not be of great importance going forward, but the United States' win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca stands up with other great moments in U.S. soccer history.
Prior to Wednesday night, the United States had played 24 matches against Mexico on Mexican soil without a single win. In fact, they had just one draw to show for all of their visits south of the border. But that streak is now old news. The U.S. went to Estadio Azteca on Wednesday and thanks to a goal from Michael Orozco Fiscal and two mind-boggling saves by Tim Howard, the Americans came away 1-0 winners to leave the Mexican crowd stunned.
The first half was all Mexico as they controlled the ball and kept the U.S. on the back foot all half. The Americans had just one real chance, capitalizing on a mistake by Mexico, but the chance went away when Herculez Gomez went to the ground asking the ref for a penalty that was not given.
Otherwise, the match was played almost exclusively in the Americans' third. They defended with numbers as Mexico tried to break them down, but led by Geoff Cameron, who was nothing short of tremendous all night, the U.S. defense held up. A couple corner kicks and a free kick scared the U.S. some, but they couldn't get a clear cut chance.
The second half looked like the first, only Mexico was able to turn the possession into chances. They had the U.S. in trouble and only a terrible miss by Javier Hernandez, a last second clearance by Cameron and some shoddy finishing from Mexico kept the match level.
It looked like the U.S. would hold on for a draw and be grateful, but then three substituties got involved on one of the Americans' rare forays forward. A great run forward by Brek Shea unlocked the Mexican defense before he crossed into a mess of people in the box. Terrence Boyd got to the ball and facing away from goal, blindly backheeled the ball towards goal. It found Orozco Fiscal, who just knocked it over the line and into the empty goal for a tally that maybe wasn't the prettiest, but it was plenty effective as the U.S. went 1-0 up with just 10 minutes remaining.
From that point on, the U.S really had to hold on for dear life and they only did because of Howard. Twice it looked like Mexico would score, but the American goalkeeper bailed the U.S. out. A deflected shot from distance wrong footed Howard and the ball was surely bound for the goal, but there was Howard to lunge at the last minute to save it.
Then only a couple minutes later, Hernandez got free in front and headed the ball right for the corner. Once again, Mexico had a sure goal and one again Howard was there to deny him with a sensational diving save.
That Orozco Fiscal goal and those two Howard saves proved to be the difference for the U.S. who jumped for joy when the final whistle went. They had their first ever win in Mexico and got to have their moment on the field at the Azteca as the Mexican team walked off stunned to the boos and whistle of the crowd.
We'll have live coverage in our Mexico vs. USA, 2012 Friendly StoryStream.
The United States has a 1-0 lead on Mexico at Estadio Azteca in the 80th minute. They have had leads against Mexico in Mexico before, but this is pretty incredible stuff. It's been a rather dull contest, but a couple of substitutions by Jurgen Klinsmann have brought the game to life.
Brek Shea and Michael Orozco Fiscal came into the game int he 78th minute, and it took them less than two minutes to create a goal. Shea started the move by running into the box down the left side and putting a low ball into the center, to the feet of Terrence Boyd. The USMNT striker poked a backheel towards the goal and Orozco Fiscal made the perfect back post run, then applied the easy finish.
There are a few interesting things to note here. First, talk about clownshoes defending by Mexico. This is some pretty woeful stuff. How Boyd's backheel gets through is anyone's guess, as is wherever the heck Orozco Fiscal came from. Andres Guardado was probably supposed to be tracking him. Also, the scorer of the goal was Michael freaking Orozco Fiscal. Like, not good enough to play for the very poor Philadelphia Union Michael Orozco Fiscal. Wow. Wow wow wow. This is the guy who scored the goal to give the United States their latest ever lead at Azteca. Incredible.
Graham Zusi is in! Yaaaaay! He's in as a right midfielder. Boooooo! Zusi's had a great couple of seasons as the attacking-most central midfielder in Sporting Kansas City's midfield three, but he's not going to get an opportunity to play that position at the moment. Zusi has replaced Danny Williams, who was playing on the right side of midfield.
Zusi has the attributes to play on the wing, but it would just be nice to see him get a run in his natural position. Of course, Jurgen Klinsmann just switched to a 4-4-2 at halftime, so that isn't entirely possible.
As for what's happening on the pitch so far in the second half, there hasn't been a ton of action. Mexico's best foray forward was sniffed out by Geoff Cameron, who did a great job to beat Javier Hernandez to a dangerous ball and head clear. The United States' best attack was probably Kyle Beckerman attempting to chip Guillermo Ochoa from 40 yards. That's not a good thing.
Terrence Boyd has entered for the United States to start the second half. He's on for Landon Donovan, while DaMarcus Beasley has entered as well, for Jose Torres. The USMNT was playing without wingers in the first half, but Beasley is a wide player and isn't going to replace Torres like-for-like. This is almost certainly now a 4-4-2 for the United States.
Mexico has made some changes as well. Elias Hernandez has come into the game for Manuel Viniegra, while Rafael Marquez Lugo has come in for Pablo Barrera. Mexico is probably going to have less width, but they're going to look less solid deep in the center as well. These are almost certainly changes to exploit the fact that the United States isn't exactly packing the midfield. Angel Reyna wasn't exploiting the space between the midfield and defense in the first half, and the two subs should do a lot more of that.
Boyd got off to a great start with his new club Rapid Vienna to start this season, but his play has cooled off considerably. Even with the United States' lack of depth at striker, he'll need to perform in this game and going forward for his club to stay in the team for competitive matches.
Mexico has had all of the ball, but the scoreboard doesn't measure possession. Soccer is about scoring goals and after 45 minutes, the Mexicans haven't been able to crack the United States defense. While friendlies are not about results, results don't hurt and at halftime the U.S. has a good 0-0 scoreline going for them.
El Tri came right at the U.S. from the very start and within a few minutes had a dangerous free kick. They added a couple corner kicks, a penalty shout and the entire match was seemingly in the Americans' third, but it didn't result in a goal. The U.S. stayed compact and defended at all costs to ensure that Mexico couldn't break through. So far it has worked.
But even though it worked, the U.S. can't be too happy about their play. They have one chance of note, when Herculez Gomez almost hopped on a Mexico mistake and was tugged at, but the referee did not award the penalty. Besides that, they have been dreadful on the ball, giving it away left and right.
Worst might be Jose Francisco Torres, who has absolutely zero defensive responsibilities, but still won't drop to find the ball and is completely uninvolved in the match. On the flip side is Geoff Cameron, who has been nothing short of sensational in the opening half.
Meanwhile, Mexico has to feel pretty good about the way things are going. Their central midfield pairing of Jesus Zavala and Manuel Viniegra has been good and they have been deadly on the wings. Their only problem is that Angel Reyna is playing underneath Javier Hernandez and while a nice player, he is a winger. If Giovani dos Santos were out there then this would be a very different match. Plus, with the possession Mexico has had, they have to think a goal is coming.
We'll have live coverage in our Mexico vs. USA, 2012 Friendly StoryStream.
Lots of very good soccer matches start very slow and get good progressively, at a steady rate. Sometimes, there's a big moment that turns things around. That big moment could still come, but we're beginning to approach the point in the match where we're allowed to declare it crappy.
The United States and Mexico haven't done very much through 28 minutes of play, for various reasons. Both teams are lacking their best players, and both have guys playing out of position. Additionally, most of these players were involved in competitive club games last weekend, and all of them except for Maurice Edu will be involved in competitive club matches this weekend.
There's a lot of standing around. The movement off the ball has been poor from everyone. The United States is content to put a lot of guys behind the ball and Mexico isn't interested in getting risky and creative in an attempt to break them down.
A stunning goal or a bad tackle that pisses everyone off could turn things around, but we're pretty close to being able to declare this match as lame.
It's a good thing for the United States that Mexico isn't playing with a real attacking midfielder. The guy they're playing behind Javier Hernandez at the moment, Angel Reyna, usually plays as a winger and certainly doesn't have any experience as an attacking midfielder at this high of a level. Mexico's normal attacking midfielder, Giovani dos Santos, is injured and in London. It's a good thing for the USMNT.
Whether because he knows Reyna isn't great in his current role or because he's insane, Jurgen Klinsmann has his team set up in a way that a top quality attacking midfielder could exploit easily. Jose Torres isn't defending by design and Kyle Beckerman is pressing by design, leaving the hot-headed Jermaine Jones and attack-minded Danny Williams to cover the midfield. There's a lot of space around and behind them, but no one's exploiting it.
Elias Hernandez is sitting on the bench licking his chops. If he enters for Reyna in the second half, Klinsmann's going to have to adjust.
Geoff Cameron is on the fringes of the United States national team, trying to lock down a regular place after moving to Stoke City in the Premier League. He's got a big chance tonight to play himself into Jurgen Klinsmann's team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, and he's putting in a good showing against Mexico so far. At least Tony Pulis will be happy that he looks like a bulldozer.
Generally, 27-year-old prospects who have played every position on the pitch in an attempt to find their best one aren't on national team and Premier League radar screens, but Cameron's a special case. He is what he is because his club coach at the Houston Dynamo, Dominic Kinnear, didn't have any choice but to put him wherever he had a gaping hole.
He's already pulled off a great tackle on 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez in the box, and he's also gotten away with a heavy shoulder challenge that the crowd wanted a penalty for. He's walking the line between physical and dirty, but doing it well, and not without some technical quality. With the United States' lack of depth in defense, Klinsmann will have to be pleased with what he's seen out of Cameron so far. Just 75 minutes to go.
We've had less than five minutes of play and there's already been a bit of a penalty shout. Following a free kick for the United States, Kyle Beckerman sent a ball into the box towards Herculez Gomez, who missed his shot attempt as he was pushed over. On first glance, it looked like a legal shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, but it was a bit hard and Gomez certainly wasn't pleased. He asked for a penalty, but didn't get it.
On the topic of the United States' formation, it looks like they're packing the midfield and playing Landon Donovan as a striker in a 4-3-1-2 formation. This is only a subtle change from the expected 4-3-3 lineup, which would have featured Danny Williams doing some defending, Landon Donovan cutting in and Jose Torres pushing up from midfield. This is going to put a lot of pressure on Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo, the fullbacks, to cover a ton of ground.
Oh, and speaking of Donovan, here's some epic struggle face.
We're underway from Estadio Azteca for the rivalry match between the United States and Mexico, and the stadium is surprisingly half-empty. It's 7 p.m. in Mexico City where traffic is pretty lame, so we'll give fans the benefit of the doubt. There will probably be more people in the house by the 15th minute of the game.
The United States are playing a bit of an unorthodox lineup and no one was quite sure how they were going to line up. Now that the game is underway, we can tell you! Fabian Johnson is playing right back, while Edgar Castillo is playing left back. The formation going forward isn't obvious quite yet, but it looks like a 4-3-3. We'll have more on that later.
Oh, and it took less than 45 seconds for the United States to give away a dangerous free kick! Good news for the Americas, Angel Reyna puts it right into the wall. Still, not a good start for Jurgen Klinsmann's boys.
The United States may not be at full strength against Mexico, which is hardly something you want to say about a team going to Estadio Azteca, but they do have some players of note. Most of them are in the midfield, where Jurgen Klinsmann has called upon Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Danny Williams and Jose Francisco Torres to start. If any group of players in the U.S. team is equipped to handle a superior team like Mexico, it is those four.
Exactly how those four are deployed is still in question. Jones, Beckerman and Williams could play together in a band of three with Torres in front of them as a more attacking player or Torres could split wide and play on the same level as the forwards in more of a 4-3-3. Either way, a lot will be asked of them.
But while Klinsmann may feel good about the midfield, the same can't be true in defense. Geoff Cameron has a great opportunity to impress Klinsmann in central defense, but Maurice Edu is out of position as a central defender. Amazingly, that is the more stable part of the defense. On the outside, Klinsmann has opted to put Fabian Johnson out of position on the right and the defensively-shaky (that is being kind) Edgar Castillo on the left. Considering the quality of attackers they will be charged with defending, that is scary for the Americans.
Up top, Klinsmann has opted for Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez. It is an interesting duo because they will play as a true two-man strike partnership, which is different from the lone-striker teams he tried to implement in earlier matches. That also pushes Terrence Boyd to the bench, who would have likely been the starting striker has Klinsmann opted for a lone striker.
The Mexican lineup is as expected, with Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez up top and Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera out wide, making up three-quarters of El Tri's regular attacking quartet. Angel Reyna has been tabbed to replace the absent Giovani dos Santos, playing underneath Hernandez and the middle man of the three-man band in Mexico's 4-2-3-1.
Behind those four, Jose Manuel 'Chepo' de la Torres has opted to play Manuel Viniegra alonside Jesus Zavala in the double pivot. That was expected and it is a major opportunity for Viniegra to make an impression on Chepo for a central midfield spot that is very much up for grabs.
If Viniegra and Zavala can control the match, the U.S. will be in trouble. Donovan and Gomez are players who could easily end up stranded alone up top if the American midfield cannot carve out a foothold of their own. While this is not the first choice U.S.team, they are pretty strong in the middle with Jones, Beckerman, Williams and Torres, three players who are all best in the middle and should theoretically at least be able to tackle and keep the ball. If they can't then it will get ugly and quick.
We'll have live coverage in our Mexico vs. USA, 2012 Friendly StoryStream.
The lineups are out for the United States and Mexico, and only one team's starting XI is the least bit surprising and interesting. Mexico's lineup is as expected, though there is one position worth pointing out. Angel Reyna usually plays as a winger, but will be thrown into a central attacking midfield role tonight. Giovani dos Santos, the regular starter, was unavailable on account of playing in the Olympics and getting injured. The United States have two left backs in their team, and one will play out of position at right back. Defensive midfielder Maurice Edu is playing central defense, while the midfield and forwards appear to be arranged in a 4-3-3.
Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. local time from Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. You can catch the game on ESPN2 or Univision in the United States.
We'll have live coverage in our Mexico vs. USA, 2012 Friendly StoryStream.
There are a lot of reasons why Wednesday's friendly between the United States and Mexico doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. There isn't anything on the line and both teams are shorthanded to some degree. The biggest takeaway from this match will be the millions of dollars that the FMF and USSF will rake in, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything soccer-related of note to keep an eye on.
Both teams have individuals to watch for various reason. But for the United States, there might not be a person more interesting to watch at Estadio Azteca than Terrence Boyd.
The 21-year-old striker, born in Germany to a German mother and American serviceman, came up through the Hertha Berlin academy and was with Hertha and Borussia Dortmund at the senior level, but never was able to crack the first team. His 6'2'' frame and above-average speed were tantalizing, but he was a streaky finisher and made many of the mistakes that one would expect from a young and inexperienced player.
Last season, Boyd began to really make strides and played extremely well for Dortmund's reserve team, but he didn't didn't have a path to the first team. Frustrated with his inability to make the jump to the Westfalenstadion, Boyd left Dortmund for Rapid Vienna this summer.
The Austrian League is an obvious step down from the Bundesliga, but he has stepped in at Rapid and has established himself as the team's starting striker already. If nothing else, Boyd is going to play regularly in Austria and if the early returns are any indication, he's going to play well too. He was nearly unstoppable in the preseason and has scored two goals in Rapid's first four league matches this year.
Now Boyd is hoping to carry that form over to the national team. The U.S. has struggled to find a consistent striker ever since Brian McBride retired and while Jozy Altidore is playing well for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, he hasn't carried over that same form to the national team. There is no doubt that Altidore is the first chice striker right now, but he doesn't have it locked up.
Boyd can make a run at Altidore's spot if he continues to play well in Austria and then plays well for the U.S. He has four caps for the Americans already and while he does have a goal, he has shown flashes of strong play. If that strong play gets better with his experience in Austria, it can turn into goals and then there will be a real battle on for the first team striker spot.
The first chance for Boyd to show off his Austrian growth is on Wednesday night. With Altidore not in the team, Boyd should get plenty of opportunities against Mexico and make it clear that he is not just hoping to be called in regularly, but he can start and start soon, even when Altidore is in the team.
The defense is the biggest question mark and will certainly be tested with regularity, but their lack of time together, international experience and general lack of quality makes it almost unfair to judge them based on this match. They are basically being hung out to dry, but that isn't true of Boyd.
Boyd has his chance at the Azteca to really open some eyes. He's done that in Vienna, but in the U.S. he is still viewed as more potential than player. On Wednesday at the Azteca, he can change that.
The August FIFA international date has drawn plenty of criticism from players, fans and clubs. With the club seasons just starting, nobody wants to surrender their players for a friendly in the middle of the week. The players rush to wherever the match is, play it and then rush back to their clubs tired out from a match that doesn't even matter. It doesn't make anyone happy, except for the FA's that are sitting back and counting their money.
If players and teams are mad when players have to leave their clubs and travel for a match that doesn't matter, how do you think they are going to feel when they have to travel for a match that they don't even have a chance to play in? We're going to find out because Jurgen Klinsmann decided to call in 23 players for this midweek friendly against Mexico.
Whether the U.S. gets to dress 18 players or 23 players is irrelevant. Klinsmann decided to call in a bunch of players for this match with absolutely no intention of playing them. That is absolutely inexcusable for a midweek match and should drive every player who does not play and their clubs absolutely nuts.
If this was a FIFA double-date then calling in players who don't play would make some sense. While a player might not get into a match, he would get a handful of training sessions to impress the coaching staff, get used to what being with the national team is like and what is expected of a player at the international level. There is something to be gained being with the team during a double-date, but for a single midweek match?
The midweek friendly means that players don't join the team until Sunday at the earliest and some don't meet up until Monday. They get one real training session, a shorter, easier training session at the stadium on Tuesday, play the match and go home.
For the players who do not play in the match, they are traveling all the way to Mexico City for basically a training session and a half? That doesn't exactly sound like it is worth the hassle when club teams are in the middle of their season or getting ready to start theirs this weekend.
This August FIFA date already gets enough heat for players that have to play in the match. Ask Everton how they feel about Tim Howard flying for 11 hours to get to Mexico. Do you think Stoke City is happy that Geoff Cameron is going to fly 11 hours when he just signed with the club and their season starts this weekend?
And if they are mad about that then how does the team who releases their player for this match and he doesn't play, not because the match didn't require him, but because Klinsmann chose to invite players who never had a chance to play? At that point, it doesn't matter if the player flew four hours or 11 hours. The club and player will be upset and for good reason.
There are few things certain in the soccer world. One of them happens to be that the United States does not win in Mexico. That this has persisted despite the fact that the two teams have actually been reasonably competitive over the past decade or so, is a bit strange, if not wholly unsurprising. Chances are, that streak will continue with Wednesday's friendly at Estadio Azteca.
Mexico is undeniably the best team in CONCACAF and, coming off their Olympic gold medal, appear to be one of the rising powers in the world. The United States is none of those things. Their defense is a bit of shambles, most of their best players won't be playing in this match and Jurgen Klinsmann has so far failed to put any kind of stamp on this team.
Putting that all aside, though, a U.S. win is not entirely unfathomable. This is a friendly, after all, and stranger things have happened. What would it mean if the United States actually broke the Azteca curse?
Surely, there would be people both here and abroad who would discount the game entirely based on the fact that it was not a competitive match. That will be ignoring the reality that pride is always on the line when these teams meet, and that goes doubly for the Mexicans when the are the hosts.
If the U.S. were to win this match, it would not be one of the most important accomplishments in our soccer history, but it would be big. At the very least, it would mean that any mention of the United States' 24-match winless streak would at least need qualifiers. It would also knock that winless streak down to a far-less imposing figure of 16 matches, as eight of Mexico's previous wins on home soil were in friendlies.
It could also be seen as a growing trend at Azteca. Ever since the United States first claimed a point there -- a 0-0 tie during a 1998 World Cup qualifier -- Mexico has not been very dominant at their national stadium. In 1999, they needed extra time to win in the Confederations Cup and they won by just one goal in each of their next three meetings, with the U.S. actually taking their first ever lead there in the 2010 World Cup qualifier.
A win on Wednesday would not mean the U.S. has closed the talent gap that undeniably exists. It would not mean that the U.S. is poised to overtake Mexico as the overlords of CONCACAF. It would not mean that Mexican fans would be suddenly quaking in their boots. But it would be a rallying cry for the Americans, a team who badly needs something just like that.
If the United States loses? Well, go ahead and disregard all of this.
Mexico have their best team in decades, if not ever. They are solid at the back and their attacking quartet of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Pablo Barrera and Giovani dos Santos is absolutely deadly. Liga MX is also continually getting better and the success of the Mexican youth teams at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 level is an indicator of what should be sustained success. El Tri just have one problem -- central midfield.
This isn't a new problem for Mexico. They leaned heavily on Gerardo Torrado all the way through last year's Gold Cup, but the midfielder was aging and couldn't keep up his form forever. So what would Mexico do? They still haven't figured it out.
El Tri like to play in a 4-2-3-1 and they are good everywhere except in the band of two. That just happens to be an incredibly important two, as anyone who has ever watched the sport will tell you.
The good news for Mexico is that they are not short on options. Jesus Zavala appears to have a lock on one spot in the double pivot and for good reason. At 6'3'', he is plenty physical enough and he reads the game extremely well. Zavala's passing is also better than he gets credit for and he is plenty experienced with 13 caps for Mexico and two Liga MX titles and two CONCACAF Champions League titles with Monterrey.
But who will play next to him? On Wednesday against the United States it will be Manuel Viniegra. The Tigres player has been very consistent for his club and he also has a Liga MX title, winning the Apertura in 2011. Being merely consistent would be a nice step up for El Tri, who has struggled to get that from their central midfielders and Viniegra has an opportunity to really make his case for the starting spot with a good performance against the Americans.
If Viniegra fails to impress, Hector Herrera might be the next player to get his chance at the spot next to Zavala. The 22-year-old has been very good for Pachuca since making his debut last year and was one of the stars of Mexico's U-23 team this summer. First he was named best player at the Toulon Tournament early in the summer and then he shined at the Olympics, helping El Tri to the gold medal. His passing and range make him an excellent partner to Zavala as well and while he is like the rest of the Olympic team and not playing against U.S., he could be the man who wins the job down the road.
Elsewhere, there are players like Jonathan dos Santos, Jorge Enriquez, Edgar Lugo and even the older guys like Torrado and Israel Castro. Carlos Salcido could also make the move to the midfield and play in that double pivot.
There are plenty of options for Mexico so that isn't the problem, but sorting through those options and identifying which two are going to man that double pivot are. If they can figure it out and solidify that central midfield to go with the rest of that excellent team, watch out.
There is this idea that when the United States and Mexico play, it is never friendly. That idea was born out of a decade of friendlies between the two countries that were never friendly. There were red cards, dirty play and bad blood in matches that defined the intensity whenever the two countries met, friendly or not.
But now, the U.S. and Mexico can certainly play a friendly and have it be friendly. In fact, they did it just a year ago. The Americans hosted the Mexicans in Philadelphia, PA, where just 30,138 people showed up to watch and there were more empty seats than full ones at Lincoln Financial Field. Referee Raymond Bogle handed out just three cards all night, all to Mexican players for fairly innocuous challenges or tactical fouls not dangerous plays. At no point in the match did the teams scuffle and look for someone to punch and when the match ended the two teams shook hands.
Five years ago or 10 years ago, it would have been impossible to play a match in a stadium with so many empty seats, with so few cards, without any scuffles and when the whistle blew, the two teams would have been in each other's faces or celebrating wildly, not shaking hands. The rivalry has changed.
No longer is this a battle to be the top team in CONCACAF. Everybody knows that Mexico are that team and without those stakes, the intensity has been ratcheted down.
Now, the U.S. and Mexico can play friendlies. When the two teams square off at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday, there won't be the thousands of empty seats like in Philadelphia and the atmosphere of the famed stadium will give the match an added intensity , but that doesn't mean that there is no such thing as a friendly when these two teams play. After all, they were very friendly just a year ago.
The United States heads to Estadio Azteca for a clash with Mexico and another edition of CONCACAF's best rivalry.
As usually happens when the latest USMNT roster is released, people go a little crazy. Jurgen Klinsmann's job is called for, players that are not on the roster are pined over, players on the roster are questioned, in general black clouds roll in over the American soccer landscape.
Thanks to the tizzy fans seem to work themselves in to over a friendly, they tend to lose track of the point of these games. Instead of being pleased to see some fresh faces getting a chance to gain important experience, it all comes back to wins and losses. Let me throw out an idea: It doesn't matter one bit whether the US wins tonight in Mexico.
Would it be great to break the Azteca jinx? Sure, but that's not the purpose of this friendly. Klinsmann knew that his selection options were limited by the stupid mid-August timing of this international break. Many European based players are rightly focused on preparing for the season which has either already started for them or will kick off in the next week or two. The likes of Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey weren't coming all the way back to North America for this, nor should they.
Instead, Klinsmann has a chance to give some new faces the opportunity to walk in to hell and experience just what that is like. After all, if you can survive a trip to Azteca, there should be nowhere in CONCACAF that can faze you. That's the opportunity this friendly has presented and if US Soccer or ESPN has tried to sell it as anything else, shame on them. If the fans have convinced themselves that this is some kind of must-win game that will somehow tilt the balance of power in the region, shame on them.
This is a friendly, nothing more. The US will play to win, they'll do their best, they might even pull off a massive upset, but it doesn't matter. What matters is the experience, thought I doubt that perception of the match will be popular.
Landon Donovan has always had a special relationship with Mexico. As the star of the United States team back when the U.S.-Mexico rivalry was at its most intense, the Mexicans made Donovan out to be public enemy number one. That Donovan, who is always candid, never hid his disdain for the Mexican team did not help matters and neither did his urinating on the side of a field in Jalisco.
But there is more to the relationship between Donovan and Mexico than just the hate. The Mexicans also respect Donovan as a player, recognizing the terror he has been for Mexico at times. The American also speaks Spanish, which makes him a favorite interview for the Mexican media and further endears him to the Mexicans, in his own special way. In fact, Donovan was even used in a Mexican commercial to promote the lottery.
Through good and bad, Donovan has always been in the spotlight in Mexico. Probably more so south of the border than in the U.S., he is the face of American soccer.
Because of that relationship and status, whenever the U.S. plays Mexico, all eyes are on Donovan. And when the U.S. plays Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday, that will be doubly true.
Jurgen Klinsmann left many of his best players with their clubs and as a result, the only obvious first team players on the U.S. team for Wednesday are Donovan, Tim Howard and Fabian Johnson. But Howard is a goalkeeper and Johnson is still working his way into the team. That leaves Donovan.
When the understrength U.S. team stands across from Mexico, everyone will be looking at Donovan. That is always the case for the Mexican media and fans, but that'll ve very true of the Mexican team too, because if Donovan doesn't have a great match then the U.S. is in trouble.
While the U.S. has taken a weakened squad to Mexico City, Mexico has close to a first team. They are also missing some key players, but they have much more of their first XI than the U.S. and they are already the better side when at full strength. Toss in the fans at Azteca, Mexico's heat, smog and altitude and that the U.S. is winless against Mexico on Mexican soil and it doesn't bode well for the Americans.
Donovan will have to be the Americans' talisman at Azteca. He will have to see a lot of the ball, he will have to be clever with it and when the U.S. is under pressure, which they probably will be often, he has to be the one to settle things down. He will have to be everything for the U.S. because there is no Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley or even Steve Cherundolo or Carlos Bocanegra.
It is just Donovan and the spotlight is on him. He's coming off of a brilliant match for the LA Galaxy where he had four assists in a 4-0 win and while nobody is expecting four assists at Azteca, he is going to have to play just as well. That is just about the Americans' only hope.
Mexico has Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Pablo Barrera. The United States will try to defend them with Geoff Cameron, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Matt Besler, Steven Beiteshour and out-of-position Maurice Edu, among others. Uh oh.
The American defense doesn't stand much of a chance against that Mexican attack, which means Tim Howard is in for a busy day. Jurgen Klinsmann chose to leave most of his European-based players with their clubs for this match, but Howard made the team and for good reason -- he might be charged with keeping the match from getting out of hand.
Everybody knows that Howard is up to the task. That is not to say that Howard will certainly play out of his mind and leave the Mexican's wondering if there is an invisible wall in front of the goal line, but he has a chance.
Howard has played the role of hero before, probably most notably when the U.S. took on Argentina at Giants Stadium in 2008. The Argentines, as is their wont, tore apart the American defense and were in on goal time and time again. But Howard turned them away each time, denying Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and the rest of the Argentina team to earn the U.S. a 0-0 draw.
Against Mexico, Howard might have to be every bit as good as he was against Argentina four years ago and Klinsmann may have to play him all 90 minutes. Nick Rimando and Sean Johnson are fine goalkeepers, but they are not Howard and a halftime switch will put the U.S. in trouble. This one calls for 90 minutes of Howard and the very best of Howard if the Americans want a result. After all, Chicharito is no Messi.
The United States heads to Estadio Azteca to play CONCACAF's best, Mexico, and it could get ugly.
We'll email you a reset link.
If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
Choose an available username to complete sign up.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.