Ahead of Wednesday’s important World Cup qualifier/grudge match/bounce back game against El Tri the USMNT has plenty of questions to answer: Can the Yanks pick up their first win in The Azteca? Will the team be able to keep up its blistering form from the last three games of the Confederations Cup? Will Landon Donovan be in a throat-slitting mood to backup his comments? How does J.F. Torres fit into Bob Bradley’s view of the team? Have we seen the last of Frankie Hejduk, Sacha Kljestan, or DeMarcus Beasley on the USMNT? Will Jay DeMerit rock a Kid Rock concert tee under his jersey?
Some of these questions will surely be answered on Wednesday… some of them surely will not. The Yanks can expect another tightly fought battle with the Mexicans, much more akin to the 2-0 game from the beginning of WC qualifying than the Gold Cup final. The game should be more exciting than the first half of the Gold Cup match, and much more tightly contested than the second half. And of course it will feature the U.S. first team. But the fact that this one’s being played in The Azteca would lead one to believe that it could be another 2-0 finish, this time for the Spanish speaking dudes.
Here’s why that’s not going to happen. The U.S. has found something with Dempsey on the right and Donovan on the left linking up with the young striker combo of Altidore and Davies. The team is scoring the run-of-play goals that it lacked in the past and is still dangerous on the patented* USA set piece (*patent pending).
But as good as they’ve been in attack as of late, Bradley is still searching for his back four. Seemingly The States are chock full of talented fullbacks, but the four that will start in South Africa in a year need to start playing together and developing the communication they’ll need. I think those four should be Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Onyewu, and Spector.
But even if those four start on Wednesday I don’t see Mexico being shut out at home.
El Tri has finally found a good mix of their young Golden Generation (Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Guillermo Ochoa, etc.) and consistently effective veterans. Conventional wisdom would say that after their confidence building 5-0 drubbing of some version of the American team, Mexico will find the net back at home.
Conventional wisdom might also say that with both teams playing such flowing offensive football lately we could see one of the prettiest USA/Mexico matches ever.
Though the sport is the same, USA/Mexico will always look less like Barca/Real and more like Bears/Packers. Expect cards, drama, and pissed off players. In other words, abandon the concept of the beautiful game on Wednesday and getcha popcorn ready.
My prediction: USA 3-1 Mexico. The Yanks get a late goal on the counter-attack with Mexico pushing forward this time.