In less than 48 hours, the United States national team faces one of the most daunting prospects in world soccer: playing at Estadio Azteca.
And to make matters even more difficult, Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. head to Mexico City (8 pm ET, ESPN2) with a largely unproven side, one that an experienced and deep El Tri squad will be hungry to expose in front of 100,000-plus crowd in order to further reinforce their regional dominance after winning Olympic gold in London.
After a decade of payback for nearly a century of dominance, suddenly the US can see clearly that its major rival has taken unmatched steps forward.
"There is a gap," Klinsmann said during a conference call with reporters this weekend. "[We'd be] foolish not to recognize that."
Klinsmann's not the only one to notice Mexico's rise to one of the world's most-decorated sides at both youth and senior level. Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez have seen the development up close while plying their trade south of the border.
“Mexico could be in the top levels in the world, maybe the top five according to what they’ve shown on the field,” Torres said. “They’ve played at a very high level, done things very well, and they deserve the recognition they’re getting.”
Still, it's not all negative for the US. They're relishing the chance to play a game with no competitive stakes in one of the best environments in the world, and some believe that Mexico's dominance is actually a good thing for the development of the American program.
Come Wednesday night, they'll attempt to score a historic, if ultimately competitively meaningless result with a makeshift center-back pairing that will have to slow down a confident Mexican side led by Chicharito.
Meanwhile, in MLS, the Crew barely beat the transfer deadline to sign Federico Higuain, but there is still no sign of the Argentine in Columbus and head coach Robert Warzycha isn’t sure when that will change.
The Columbus Dispatch reporter Adam Jardy also spoke with Crew players about the memorial service of Kirk Urso over the weekend. Columbus were originally scheduled to take on Toronto on Sunday, but that simply wasn’t an option as the team paid its respects to the 22-year-old midfielder.
“It wasn’t a question of whether or not we were going to be there,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told The Dispatch. “We were going to be there. It was just the game was in question, the transportation was in question. We knew we were going to be there. No one was going to miss that for anything.”
While the Crew sit outside the current playoff field with 14 games left in their season, the Red Bulls are just two points out of first. Still, New York continue to struggle on the road (4-7-2) while holding serve at home (8-0-3), and Thierry Henry says that must change.
One thing unlikely to change in the near future is Bill Gaudette in the NYRB goal. Ryan Meara, who turned down a call up to the Irish U-21s because of his hip knock, only returned to training on Monday, and Luis Robles’ role with the club is still uncertain. In other news, it appears the fate of trialist Lloyd Sam will be decided this week.
The Red Bulls may also have a new rival if recent developments surrounding a second team in New York are to be believed. Check out this update on the situation from Businessweek.
Sporting Kansas City are the lone side New York trail in the Eastern Conference, gaining another three points this weekend via a “mature” performance against D.C. United. The club also got a bit of good news recently, as it was revealed a concert at Livestrong Sporting Park will be moved to protect the playing surface.
Staying in the East, NBC ProSoccer Talk’s Steve Davis takes a look at the goalkeeping situation in Philly. As the mistakes continue to rack up, how long should the coach John Hackworth stick with Zac MacMath?
Vancouver manager Martin Rennie has some decisions to make regardling his lineup as well. Captain and defensive anchor Jay DeMerit suffered a concussion against Real Salt Lake and will miss, at the very least, Wednesday's game against FC Dallas. Fortunately for Rennie, recently signed Andy O'Brien should be able to slot right in at center back.
‘Caps striker Kenny Miller was absent for Scotland’s most recent tune-up prior to the start of World Cup qualifying, but assistant coach Peter Houston has come out in support of the 32-year-old.
There likely isn’t much support for the August FIFA date in Toronto. The Reds will try to drag themselves out of last place on Wednesday without the services of their internationals, including Irish national-teamer Darren O'Dea.
Rising talent Gedion Zelalem, who hails from the Washington, D.C., area, has moved to London to pursue a professional career with Arsenal, The Washington Post's Steve Goff reported Monday. Zelalem, who has trained with both the US and German youth national sides, will turn 16 in January.
Following the US women’s gold medal-winning performance in London, it seems there are some rumblings about another professional league in the US. You can also buy Hope Solo’s new book on Tuesday, Solo: A Memoir of Hope, and read an excerpt here.
Finally, The New York Times takes a look at the hectic schedules that dominate the game today, especially as the Olympics ends and national teams embark on what many perceive as meaningless August friendlies.
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