United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann needs to show that the United States is still competitive with its fiercest rival, and a positive result in the team’s upcoming exhibition match with Mexico will be crucial.
"Friendly" is not a word that should be used to describe a contest between these two rivals. The atmosphere will certainly be hostile considering the August 15 game will be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
El Tri’s historic gold medal-winning performance at the Olympics will give the team a boost, although it will be a much different side from the one that dazzled in London.
Klinsmann has headed the Americans in this rivalry match just once. His debut came on August 10, 2011 against Mexico, and the two teams played to a 1-1 draw.
If the charismatic coach can pull off a similar result, it will certainly be a positive outcome. Azteca—which sits 1.4 miles above sea level and seats over 100,000 people, according to The New York Times' Filip Bondy—is a monumentally difficult place to play. Historically, the United States is 0-23-1 in Mexico.
Supporters hoping for a victory should lower their expectations. However, a draw could prove to be an important result for Klinsmann as the team heads into World Cup qualifying matches.
What will happen in this match?
Mexico has owned the rivalry in recent years. Their 3-0-1 record over the Americans in the last four matches included two demoralizing victories in the Gold Cup Finals. Then the United States surprisingly failed to qualify for the Olympics, while the Mexicans won the tournament.
Klinsmann’s tenure with the USMNT has been by no means a failure, but there has not been much for fans to get excited about. Meanwhile, El Tri’s supporters are likely still celebrating from the team’s victory in the gold-medal match over Brazil.
If the United States can earn a draw with Mexico in Azteca, it will pull their rivals back to Earth. It will also give the U.S. confidence in their coach and their own abilities as they head into four World Cup qualifiers spread across September and October.
Winning is nearly impossible at Azteca, but tying is only improbable. Given the United States’ lackluster form in recent months, it is time for Klinsmann to pull off something unexpected.