For many fans of the US Men's National Team, the players and coaches, Aug. 12 has been a date circled on the calendar for some time.
A chance to make history.
To prove the U.S. is the best team in the region and to virtually assure that their ticket is stamped to South Africa next year.
To rub it in your biggest rival's face in their house and to put their road to World Cup qualification in doubt.
And oh yeah, to get revenge after the 5-0 drubbing delivered by Mexico last month in the Gold Cup final.
Needless to say, the U.S. has plenty of motivation to get a result at Azteca. But can they accomplish that?
There are many obstacles standing in the way of success on Wednesday. These include:
- Azteca Stadium: playing at 8,000 feet elevation in the middle of the day in front of 105,000 partisan fans is not easy. Smog and humidity will add to the challenge of the playing environment.
- History: The U.S. has never won in Mexico, posting a dismal 0-22-1 record there.
- Inconsistency: Which U.S. team will show up? The one who beat then No. 1 Spain in the Confederations Cup or the team that looked out of sorts against Costa Rica in San Jose?
- Psychological Edge: Mexico is undoubtedly feeling good about themselves after their big win over the U.S. last month (yes, despite bringing a poor team, the U.S. should not have lost by that scoreline).
Therefore, some keys to victory for the U.S. on Wednesday:
1) Keep Your Concentration: If the U.S. can limit mistakes defensively and not allow a score at the beginning or the end of the halves, then they have a chance. The longer the game goes scoreless or is tied, the more frustrated Mexico will become.
2) Finish Your Chances: The U.S. doesn't typically create a ton of chances in a game, but when they are playing well, they bury a high percentage of those chances. They'll have to do just that on Wednesday.
3) Play Aggressively: The U.S. will have to maintain some possession and not be on their back heels for long stretches of the game. This will put some pressure on Mexico and provide more opportunities to score for Team USA, in particular with set pieces.
4) Don't Lose Your Cool: US-Mexico matches have featured tough challenges, confrontations, and red cards in this heated rivalry. If the U.S. can play its game and avoid the mind games of Mexico, the U.S. may gain a man advantage at some point if team Mexico loses it at some point.
5) Take Out the 12th Man: Mexico thrives off its fans and the home crowd, and by coming out strong the U.S. can keep the fans out of the game. If Mexico comes out in rhythm, stringing together passes and maintaining possession or even scoring, it will probably be a long day for the U.S.
Here is a projected lineup and formation for Wednesday:
subs: Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres
Prediction: USA 2, Mexico 2