The U.S. men's soccer team may have suffered a 3-1 defeat in Costa Rica last week as well as losing four players through injury and suspension, but a quick look to their opponent on Tuesday night should put their issues into perspective.
Despite the loss, the Yanks are in second place in the Hexagonal table to decide which three sides from CONCACAF automatically go onto next year’s World Cup. A win against old rivals Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, combined with anything other than a win in Honduras for Panama and Jurgen Klinsmann’s side can begin planning for Brazil with the certainty of their place assured. That won’t be easy, though, with Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Jozy Altidore all suspended and Michael Bradley out injured. Klinsmann is putting on a confident front about the ability of his squad players to step in and make an impact.
"Part of qualifying is how much depth you have but we feel confident about other guys stepping in and doing a job,” he said, according to the US Soccer website. “There are guys who have wanted to play and maybe deserve to play and now they'll have a chance."
Klinsmann’s main selection dilemma appears to be up front. With Altidore out, the former Germany striker faces a choice between Eddie Johnson, the exciting prospect Aron Johansson or moving Clint Dempsey forward to lead the line.
Such issues do not compare to those faced by Mexico coming into this always keenly contested matchup. A World Cup qualification campaign that was previously at best stuttering along entered the realm of crisis with only a second ever qualifying defeat at the Azteca last Friday against Honduras. Coach Jose Manuel de la Torre was promptly sacked. With El Tri still lying in the playoff spot, all is not lost, but newly installed Luis Fernando Tena badly needs a result against the U.S.
Reports suggest that Tena, who led Mexico to gold in last year’s Olympics, may even need a victory in Columbus to extend his time in the hot seat beyond a solitary game. He has, though, tried to play down expectations of a revolution in the side’s makeup. One change will be enforced with veteran midfielder Gerrardo Torrado ruled out through suspension. Tena also faces a decision of whether to recall Javier Hernandez to the lineup. With Oribe Peralta having excelled under his charge at the Olympics and the new coach likely to settle for a draw, the Manchester United striker man may have to make do with an impact role off the bench.
D: Orozco, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley
M: Beckerman, Jones
Donovan, Dempsey, F. Johnson
F: E. Johnson
D: Meza, Reyes, Moreno, Salcido
M: Zavala, Herrera
Dos Santos, Reyna, Guardado
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from Columbus Crew Stadium at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN and UniMas. Live streams will be available on Watch ESPN and the Univision Deportes website.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.