USMNT Report: It All Comes Down to Columbus

The US readies for an all-important and intense World Cup Qualifier with Mexico
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, September 10, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team has been here before – under pressure, searching for points and a date with Mexico on the horizon.

And tonight at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, the difficult path for the Americans will continue as they battle regional rival Mexico in a crucial CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier.

Neither El Tri nor the Yanks are coming off positive results, and both will be looking to take that extra step forward in the already tight race for qualification.

THE ROAD TO NOW: The United States comes into tonight’s qualifier after suffering a discouraging 3-1 loss to Costa Rica last Friday night. The Americans couldn’t find any strength in the attacking third and were outplayed significantly by the Ticos. The loss not only ended the USA’s 12-game winning streak, but also pushed the Americans down to 2nd place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying standings below that same Costa Rican side.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann was very adamant about how crucial the Mexico game is to the American team’s hope of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

“I think we are looking at three games to go and we badly need four points, so we better start on Tuesday night with that,” he said. “It will again be high intensity. They are now absolutely with their back against the wall. The way we approach games is we want to win at any cost, which is what we are going to try on Tuesday night. It’s going to be a very, very intense game.”

Klinsmann also made some changes to the USMNT lineup following the Costa Rica affair. The USA manager brought in Joe Corona, Jose Torres, Brad Davis and Clarence Goodson to help aid the ailing Americans who are without injured Michael Bradley and the yellow trio of: Besler, Cameron and Altidore.

ANALYSIS: The USMNT needs a win, and a little luck, to qualify for the World Cup tonight.

With a victory over their heated rival, who are coming to Columbus with a newly-appointed head coach in Luis Fernando Tena, the Americans also need a win or draw from Honduras to secure a spot at the 2014 World Cup.

But Mexico will be just as eager for the 3 points, and may be hungrier than the USA. El Tri is sitting in 4th place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal after going 1-1-5 through this round of qualifying. Finishing at 4th would send the Mexicans to November play-offs with the OFC (Oceania) top finisher, New Zealand. Which in the end should be a cake-walk for a lackluster El Tri, but no one wants to put their chances in two do-or-die matches versus any international opponent these days.

So much is on the line in tonight’s game and in a different way than in the past. Whereas normally both the USA and Mexico would be searching to gain ground on the other for the top spot in the qualification process, and to a lesser extent local bragging rights, this game sees the USA looking to clinch a berth and Mexico scratching and clawing to stay alive.

Both teams aren’t in top form, either. The Americans will miss some of their top players – Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley – and are coming off an embarrassing loss on the road to Costa Rica.

Similarly, Mexico is without some of its top players, like Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who is on the squad list but isn’t at full fitness. El Tri is also coming off a come-from-behind drubbing by Honduras, which confidently strode past a disoriented Mexican side at Estadio Azteca. To make matters worse the Mexican federation summarily fired their coach after that result, not exactly the best timing for that after what could have easily been done this summer post lackluster Gold Cup results.

Neither team is riding high or in great form, which really puts both Mexico and the United States on an equal playing field.

Add all of that to the fact that the last time the US and Mexico played was in Estadio Azteca – the once Mexican fortress of dominance – where the USA escaped with a 0-0 draw. Before that in 2012, the United States defeated Mexico in Azteca for the 1st time ever with a 1-0 decision. Now Mexico comes to Columbus, where the United States has been historically dominate over La Verde.

And all of the pieces are in place for CONCACAF’s big guns’ final showdown of this World Cup cycle. Mexico has its new manager and a significant amount of motivation to not find further humiliation this year. The United States, shamed by its recent loss and hounded with questions of whether or not its summer streak was a fluke, crave victory to silence the questions and regain control of their Hexagonal destiny.

Up until this point, both USA and Mexico have been journeying on different paths towards qualification. The Americans have been dogged and aggressive, while Mexico has been tamed with a medley of ties and underperformance. But as the pair meet again, all bets are off. The border rivalry is set to kick off again, this time on American soil, and neither team can afford to lose.

NEXT UP: September 10 – World Cup Qualifier: United States vs. Mexico, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio. 8 p.m. EST, ESPN, UniMas.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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