Forget the Red Sox-Yankees, Michigan-Notre Dame, or any of the pre-packaged NFL rivalries. The biggest most intense rivalry of the season is on display tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7 pm CST, ESPN2). That’s right it’s USA v. Mexico with a World Cup entry on the line.
This was the game we were supposed to attend in person; however, tickets sold out in record time and our name did not come up on the lottery. So we will have to be content with watching on TV. Join us, and you won’t be disappointed.
For Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., it’s time to solidify a trip to Brazil with time to spare and stick it to El Tri. For Mexico, this is a chance to kick-start a late surge towards the World Cup now that ineffective coach Chepo De La Torre finally got the axe. Several interesting sub-plots on the line…
Columbus Mystique: Since that faithful snow-bound day over 12 years ago, Columbus has been the designated home site for US wins over Mexico in World Cup Qualifying. Crew Stadium – the original MLS soccer-specific venue, will feature a rabid pro-American crowd, even if the weather is likely to be downright sub-tropical. Thanks to recent success by both MLS and the National Team, Columbus is no longer one of the only places to feature a heavily pro-US fan atmosphere. Ohio was the original, though, and we’re hoping the winning vibe can continue this round.
Short-handed Yanks: The most significant loss is Michael Bradley’s freak ankle sprain suffered while warming up for the loss in Costa Rica on Friday. That one bit of rotten luck has the potential to cost the US two games. Bradley is that important to the team – he is certainly the MVP, if not the team’s best overall player. No one else can do what he does. Also absent due to yellow cards: Jozy Altidore, who had been on a great scoring run; Matt Besler, starting centerback lost to a yellow card on a despicable dive by Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell (why can’t soccer get it right, review these calls afterwards, and knock out the cheating and acting already!); utility man and likely starter Geoff Cameron is also out. That’s three definite starters gone, including the guy who’s your point guard/quarterback in Bradley. We’ve heard about the depth Klinsmann has been developing all summer; now’s the time for it to show through.
Mexican Desperation: El Tri just lost at home to Honduras. They’re sitting in 4th place. They still have to play Costa Rica after this match. They are in trouble. Finally El Chepo is gone, and that could be a blessing. Maybe they get that one-game bump from the coaching switch. Maybe they’re looking at the depleted US team as a great opportunity to renew and refresh and point the way back. But they just haven’t looked particularly sharp for a long time, and they certainly haven’t been tough enough during the Hex. Speaking for die-hard US fans everywhere, sure would be sweet to lengthen their misery and send them closer to the abyss.
X-Factors and Stars: Both teams boast stars who can take over the game. El Tri has Chicarito, the guy who can’t seem to score against the Yanks but terrorizes everyone else in the region. Gio Dos Santos has lit the US up on several occasions, and Andres Guardado is a great wide midfielder. Team American will look to Dempsey, and Tim Howard, as well as the Lord High Mexecutioner himself – Landon Donovan. You have to think Donovan will be up for this match in a big way, and we will be hoping and praying he can impose his will and talent and get in the heads of those green shirts once again.
Those old Jurgen foibles: Mexico will likely press hard at the start. If the US can maintain some composure during those first twenty of so minutes, El Tri may start to implode. The US has to dominate the set-piece chances and avoid any cheapies. Neither of these happened against Costa Rica last Friday. The US must also pressure high and convert turnovers into chances; can’t allow Mexico to develop too much passing rhythm. Finally, they must watch Chicarito on the back shoulder moves and late box runs. Assuming also Jurgen learned his lesson with that last duct-tape lineup and plays the right guys this time. Do not want to see Michael Orozco tomorrow night unless it’s a late game defensive sub.
Our starting eleven at the whistle: Call it a 4-2-3-1 if you want, but we prefer a straight up 4-4-2.
Arron ‘Iceman’ Johannson and Mix Diskeruud are your offensive subs. Maybe Brad Davis or Michael Parkhust late to help salt away the lead.
We’ve had this game circled on the calendar since Concacaf announced it would use he Hexagonal final round of qualification once again. We’re injured and short-handed; they’re desperate. No more time for excuses.
Let’s. get. it. on.