Tonight at 6:45 central time, the United State’s Men’s National Team (which for obvious purposes will now be known as the USMNT for this article) will play Mexico in it’s first match of “The Hex,” the final stage of World Cup Qualifying for teams in the CONCACAF. Mexico hasn’t played too well in formal competitions as of late, most notably falling disappointingly out of the last World Cup, and falling 7-0 to Chile in the Copa America this past summer. Many believed they had a good chance of winning the tournament as a whole. The U.S. impressed in two “group of death” situations in both tournaments, escaping ahead of Portugal and Ghana and narrowly missing finishing atop of Germany in the group in the World Cup, and winning their group in the Copa America. However, Mexico comes into Columbus looking to win. It’s not easy to win in the fortress of U.S. soccer, so we’ll wait and see. I’ll give you a rundown.
Defender Geoff Cameron, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and forward Chris Wondolowski will miss the United States’ World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica because of injuries, and Tim Howard has regained the No. 1 goalkeeper’s job.
The United States men’s team has beaten Mexico in four consecutive World Cup Qualifiers by a score of “Dos a cero” as the chant which has become famous amongst USMNT supporters, also known as 2 to 0. Every one of these four games has been in Columbus. Probably the most famous of these matchups, which sparked a large part of the rivalry is known as “La Guerra Fria” or “The Cold War”. The name stuck, and so did the United States utilizing Columbus’ colder atmosphere and pro-America crowd to spur them to victory in these games. Columbus is the U.S. National Team’s Stadio Aztecca, where no Mexican player enjoys going to play. That makes the game set up as even more of a fun one, with Mexico playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and the U.S. looking to impress in front of a home crowd.
My Prediction: 2-1 United States.
The speed of Mexico is formidable, but Tim Howard is the U.S. #1, needless to say he knows how to come through in the clutch in big moments and he will likely have to make some BIG saves from this star-studded Mexico offense. They’re fast, they’re skilled, and according to Jermaine Jones, they’re whiny. (LINK) John Brooks and the U.S. defense will have their hands full. But they do have one key advantage… Height.
Winning (and scoring off of) set pieces will be huge for the U.S. tonight. Open play has become increasingly important for Jurgen Klinnsman’s U.S. teams in recent months, especially thanks to the addition of Christian Pulisic alongside an influx of young talent, but some things never change. Height will continue to be a big advantage for the United States in soccer. Look for some creative set pieces from both sides to see if they can grab a quick advantage. I am going with the United States in large part thanks to the environment, but also in addition to the fact that the U.S. is simply getting better. (Gasp) We’ve seen recently that new talent, and the inclusion of players playing in higher leagues in Europe, have fueled the Men’s team to much bigger wins. We see the inclusion of players like Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Aaron Johannsson, Bobby Wood and many others fuel recent U.S. squads on to big victories, such as last year against Germany and the Netherlands. Not only that, but the recent form of Jermaine Jones, pre-injury Clint Dempsey (as always), Tim Howard, and others from the MLS have recently made huge progress, and have put in very clutch performances.
Jurgen Klinnsman recently said of Jones that “Teams just fear him.” And The United States will assuredly rely on him to force his way into making a presence tonight against Mexico.
If the United States are to win, it will be a bringing together of the best of both words, MLS, and European leagues. Only together can they create a recipe for the success of the team.
The match should be a hard-hitting, fast-paced slugfest. It could even be a high-scoring one. Needless to say, every match against Mexico is huge, but they are at a large turning point that will affect the growth not just of the team, but the U.S. soccer program as a whole going forward.
American Outlaws (the premier supporters group for the USMNT) will be filling up half of the stadium in Columbus tonight. It will be loud, to say the least.
Maybe with all the divisiveness going on in our country, it’s time we find something we can all support.
Tune in tonight, soccer fan or not, for what is sure to be an emotional match-up.
The match airs on Fox Sports 1 starting at 6 o’clock, with kickoff an hour later in the evening. The atmosphere is set, and it’s almost showtime.