USA vs. Mexico: Keys to Victory for Americans in Columbus
For Juergen Klinsmann's side, Friday's loss on the road against Costa Rica was a humiliating defeat. The United States fell in demoralizing fashion, continuing their lengthy winless drought when visiting the Ticos.
But redemption could be just around the corner, as the American squad takes on Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday night in yet another World Cup qualifying clash.
In order to secure an all-important victory over their bitter rivals to the south, Klinsmann's bunch will need to be much better, although fortunately, the red, white and blue will be taking on a surprisingly disappointing Mexican side that sits on the verge of being eliminated from World Cup contention for the first time in more than two decades (via The Columbus Dispatch).
For Mexico, another loss wouldn’t deliver a knockout blow but would likely leave the Mexicans in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time since it was banned from the 1990 tournament for using overage players on a youth national team.
Mexico is 1-1-5 and in fourth place among the six teams competing in final-round qualifying. Only the top three will earn trips to Brazil. The fourth-place team must win a playoff with Oceania regional champion New Zealand to advance.
Heading into what should be an emotional tilt, here's a look at what Klinsmann's team needs to do in order to rebound from the loss to Costa Rica.
Who will win in Columbus on Tuesday?
No Early Lapses
Against the Costa Ricans, the Americans were absolutely dreadful during the match's opening moments, and the team's early defensive lapses were ultimately what sealed the U.S.' fate on Friday.
By the time the match was 10 minutes old, Klinsmann's side had surrendered a pair of goals to the Costa Ricans, starting with Johnny Acosta's marker roughly two minutes after the opening kickoff.
To make matters worse, the U.S. went on to surrender another goal less than seven minutes later, and by that point, the Americans had effectively played their way out of the match.
Yes, Clint Dempsey's converted penalty brought the U.S. to within striking distance of keeping the country's 12-match unbeaten streak alive, but the multiple defensive miscues were too much to come back from.
Unheralded Heroes Stepping Up
Even before the match against Costa Rica began, Klinsmann and company were dealt a debilitating blow when standout midfielder Michael Bradley went down with an ankle injury during warm-ups.
Without Bradley, the Americans were forced to play without one of their most valuable playmakers, and, as we found out, it was too much for the U.S. to come back from.
To make matters worse, the team's lack of composure down the stretch cost the team a handful of additional key players in preparation for the home match against Mexico, causing Klinsmann to add Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Clarence Goodson and Jose Torresto his roster (via USSoccer.com):
The additions come after three players picked up yellow card cautions in the USA’s 3-1 loss against Costa Rica on Sept. 6 in San Jose, forcing them to serve a one-match suspension: Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron.
In particular, the loss of Altidore will hurt the Americans. The 23-year-old striker had found the back of the net in each of the team's previous three WCQ matches prior to the match in Costa Rica.
Now, without a pair of the team's most dangerous offensive threats sidelined, lesser-known lights will have to step up in the meantime in order for the U.S. to bounce back from the loss on Friday.
A Better Showing From Tim Howard
No, the loss to Costa Rica certainly can't be solely attributed to the play of longtime keeper Tim Howard, but the 34-year-old wasn't even as close to as reliable as he normally is for the national team.
But Howard's showing on Friday was troubling because simply put, in order for the U.S. to be successful against quality opponents, the Everton stopper has to be better than he was against the Ticos.
As the Washington Post's Jeff Maurer pointed out following the loss to Costa Rica, if Howard's performance isn't significantly better on Tuesday, there's a chance the veteran goalie could be replaced as the Americans' No. 1 option in between the pipes.
I wasn’t going to say this, but after tonight I might as well: On current form, Guzan is slightly better than Howard.
For now Howard remains the starting keeper, but he'll have to rebound against Mexico in order to retain the role going forward.
Whether or not he's able to help the U.S. to a victory in Columbus may determine whether he continues to keep Guzan at bay on the Americans' depth chart.
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