COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Yanks can breathe easier now.
Thursday night’s 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago, coupled with a 0-0 draw between Costa Rica and Panama in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, helped boost the US Men’s National team into third place in the table, ever closer to an automatic World Cup qualifying spot.
The US now sits with seven points from five games in the Hexagonal, one point abreast of Panama heading into Sunday night’s clash with rivals Mexico at the Azteca in Mexico City (8:30 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN).
Additionally, the result against T&T aided the Americans’ cause by improving the team’s goal differential to three, also third-best in the table and an important factor in tie-breaking procedure.
“That’s World Cup qualifying; you have to win your home games,” said US goalkeeper Tim Howard. “The score line suits us and keeping a clean sheet helps.”
USMNT head coach Bruce Arena was asked about the prospect of third place in the standings following the win. But he gave a tongue-in-cheek response, knowing that the Costa Rica-Panama game was still in progress at the time of the US post-game press conference.
“I don’t think your math’s good,” Arena responded to reporters. “[Moving into third place] would be good. I’d like to see if you can think it out a little bit more and see if you can get us in second place.”
Nonetheless, both Arena and USMNT players expressed a bit of relief, knowing that the team had taken three points at home.
Already on a short week following last Saturday’s friendly match against Venezuela, Arena also alluded to lineup changes heading into the Mexico game in three days.
“I think we have to see how our players recover,” he explained. “We have a sense of where guys will be after this game tonight and realize we’ll need some new bodies on the field on Sunday. We’ve been training that way for the last week to ten days. We have that plan in place. We might make a couple changes to that, but we’re pretty set on what we’re going to do on Sunday.”
The prospect of short rest, combined with altitude, and a hostile crowd all play into challenge of facing Mexico. But as always, the Americans are looking forward to it.
“For us there’s no bigger game,” said team captain Michael Bradley. “With three important points under our belt tonight; it sets up nicely. We can go there and be ready to give them a real game in an amazing stadium.”