Preview: US look for first-ever win in Azteca vs. Mexico
To say that the US will have their hands full with Mexico may very well be an understatement.
The Mexicans enter the match vs. the Americans (8 pm ET, ESPN2, Univision, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) on the heels of their Olympic gold medal in London after powering their way past Oscar, Neymar, Hulk & Co. of perhaps the tournament favorites Brazil.
The Americans on the other hand are experimenting on the backline by throwing Maurice Edu in central defense to find a working pair in central defense and display Edu for potential suitors Valencia. The soon-to-be-former Rangers midfielder will also bolster a young group of inexperienced defenders who combined boast a total 21 international caps.
Considering that the US have only received a result once in 24 matches on Mexican soil, throw in the altitude and raucous environment of Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and it seems a certain recipe for an old-fashioned beating for the Americans.
But all is not lost just yet. If head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s Edu-Geoff Cameron partnership impresses, Landon Donovan creates down the wings and Terrence Boyd can find a little bit of room up top, the Americans may just walk out of Azteca with more than they bargained for.
The US will be looking to break a four-match winless streak vs. their neighbors to the south. The last win for the Americans came on February 11, 2009 at Columbus Crew Stadium when they downed Mexico 2-0 in a 2010 World Cup Qualifier.
Since then, it has been all Mexico and in convincing fashion. Before drawing 1-1 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia last August, El Tri had won the three previous games against the US — including two consecutive Gold Cup finals — by a combined score of 11-3.
WATCH: 3 keys to Mexico vs. USA
USA Team Outlook
Just how much depth does Klinsmann have without Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and longtime captain Carlos Bocanegra? He’s about to find out.
Heading into Mexico with a largely let’s-see-what-you-can-do-for-us mentality, the US boss will be counting on players to step up and perform on one of the biggest stages of their professional careers.
That means for guys like Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon a chance to steal the spotlight up front and see if all of their MLS productivity can translate well enough onto the international level. Wondolowski has yet to prove himself for the Stars and Stripes, but with the kind of season he’s having, it appears there may be no better time to blossom.
Holding down the midfield will be a huge task for the Americans as well, and Klinsmann will be turning to a couple budding US prospects to see how well they fare. If Graham Zusi (one of the last two players cut from the US’ five-game stretch two months ago) and Brek Shea (who has several appearances for the USMNT but has been struggling both on and off the pitch for quite some time) show well if their numbers get called, then the US have a legitimate chance to be competitive until the final whistle. But if they don’t, however, then Edu & Co. will be in for a long night on the backline.
The United States enter the match having lost just once in their last six games. They will head to Jamaica on Sept. 7 for the first game of a home-and-home series in World Cup qualifying before hosting the Reggae Boyz at Columbus Crew Stadium four days later on Sept. 11.
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Mexico Team Outlook
If El Tri had to pick the best time to face the United States, fresh off an Olympic final win over a stacked Brazilian side would be a great start.
Yes, while three of Mexico’s biggest names will be absent — Giovani dos Santos, Carlos Salcido and Olympic hero Oribe Peralta — they still enter Azteca high on confidence and loaded with firepower.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Aldo di Nigris will be testing an unproven United States backline from the get-go, while Valencia’s Andrés Guardado and Monterrey’s Ángel Reyna will be looking to get up and down the flanks all game long.
Mexico come into the friendly riding a five-game winning streak, with the last two coming in World Cup qualifiers over Guyana and El Salvador. After their friendly with the United States, they face a World Cup qualifying home-and-home series with Costa Rica on Sept. 7 and 11.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
USA — Terrence Boyd: Without Clint Dempsey patrolling the front line for the US, Boyd will be looking to employ some of his success with new club Rapid Vienna against the Mexican back four.
Mexico — Aldo di Nigris: With Chicharito expected to draw deserved attention from the US defense, Monterrey’s di Nigris is no stranger to being in the right place at the right time and has no problem stealing the show if needed.
Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard (Everton, England), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (6): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beithasour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis, Mexico), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany)
Midfielders (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Maurice Edu (Rangers, Scotland), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04, Germany), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim, Germany), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards (5): Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna, Austria), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)
Goalkeepers (2): Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio, France), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders (7): Francisco Javier Rodríguez (Stuttgart, Germany), Héctor Moreno (Espanyol, Spain), Severo Meza (Monterrey), Hugo Ayala (UANL Tigres), Jorge Torres Nilo (UANL Tigres), Enrique Pérez (Morelia), Adrian Aldrete (Club América)
Midfielders (6): Jesús Zavala (Monterrey), Manuel Viniegra (UANL Tigres), Edgar Gerardo Lugo (Santos Laguna), Pablo Barrera (Cruz Azul), Andrés Guardado (Valencia, Spain), Ángel Reyna (Monterrey)
Forwards (3): Elías Hernández (UANL Tigres), Aldo de Nigris (Monterrey), Javier Hernández (Manchester United, England)