Michael Bradley says USMNT has a chance to make Azteca crowd turn against Mexico
MEXICO CITY – The Mexican national team is winless in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal. And they're reminded about it every single day.
The pressure from the media and fans has been relentless on El Tri and US midfielder Michael Bradley feels that the USMNT can use it to their advantage in Tuesday night's qualifier at the Estadio Azteca (10:30 pm ET, ESPN and Univision, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
"Let's be honest, the pressure is on them," Bradley said during a Monday roundtable session with media. "The pressure for them at home, at Azteca to come out and not only play a good game but to win is huge."
Continued Bradley: "I think if we can start well and if we can show them early on that now we're going to close them down and we're going to make the game difficult for them and not just going to sit so deep and let them have the ball the whole time. I think that will start to put them under pressure and at a certain point there's a chance that the crowd can turn on them."
There is already a precedent for that. In Mexico's first Hexagonal home game on Feb. 6 against Jamaica, which shockingly finished 0-0, the Estadio Azteca fans began jeering their own team and serenaded the Jamaicans with "olé" chants.
But in order for the USMNT to even think about playing well enough to win over the 100,000-plus crowd on the road Tuesday night, they'll need to make sure they play with a lot more energy and fight than they did in their last Hexagonal away match in Honduras. That ended in a 2-1 loss.
Bradley says the team had a frank, internal discussion about what has been missing in their more lackluster displays.
"We talked as a team last week about feeling like in this past stretch we had let a few of the things that are so important to us come down a few notches," he said. "The commitment, the determination, that heart, winning mentality. The willingness of every guy who steps on the field to run and to fight for every other guy on the field.
"So when you talk about winning big games and winning hard games and winning games on the road and qualifiers on the road, those things have to be there," Bradley continued. "Maybe for me, if I'm looking closely, I look back and feel like at times in those games that those qualities didn't shine through as much as they normally do and as much as they have to to win big games … that part is not negotiable. Those qualities, that commitment, that determination and that mentality has to be there and it can't ever come down at all."
The AS Roma midfielder was not in the squad for the USMNT's first-ever win at the Estadio Azteca last August. But he has a good feeling about what could take place on Tuesday night.
"It's a game where we feel like it's come at a good time. We're confident. We're excited," Bradley said. "If you look at the development of our team, we're ready to come here and play them on even terms."