RICH FIDLER - Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The United States and Mexico will face off in a crucial World Cup Qualifier tomorrow afternoon at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, a venue that hasn't been kind to the Red, White and Blue over the course of history.
Head coach Bob Bradley and his squad of 20 men embark on a journey this afternoon from their training base of Miami, Florida to the smog induced haze that is Mexico City and its' elevation 7,200 feet above sea level.
The game at altitude will no doubt be a challenge to the men who most recently finished second to Brazil in the FIFA Confederations Cup and have recently started their club seasons after a summer of success.
These two teams faced each other back in February at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio - a game that featured two goals from midfielder Michael Bradley in the American's 2-0 victory. It's a familiar score line that the Mexicans have grown to dislike when playing the United States on their home soil.
Bradley will no doubt rely on a starting eleven that leans heavily on the roster that led him to the Confederations Cup final. Tim Howard will undoubtedly be the starter behind a back four of Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu and possibly Jonathan Spector.
Spector will battle regular first-team right back Steve Cherundolo, who missed South Africa due to injury, but is fully healthy and went the full 90 minutes in Hannover 96's 1-0 defeat over the weekend before flying across the Atlantic.
Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan will start in the midfield. Donovan is a villain to most Mexicans for his goal scoring prowess against their national team, however, the LA Galaxy midfielder has grown to enjoy the pressure of facing their regional rival.
Bradley will start his son and current Borussia Mönchengladbach ace alongside Houston Dynamo's Ricardo Clark - although more offensive minded Benny Feilhaber could see the start depending on Bradley's formation at 4:00pm EST tomorrow.
Up top the team will be lead by Brian Ching, who returned from an injury that kept him out of South Africa to captain the team during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The second striker will be an intriguing choice for the head coach, either Jozy Altidore who recently joined Hull City on-loan or speedy Sochaux forward Charlie Davies will get the nod.
Mexico will be without their captain and defensive ace Rafa Marquez, who suffered a calf injury during preseason training for his club team Barcelona - although it may not be a humbling loss as Marquez drew a embarrassing red card in their February encounter.
They'll have to rely on a handful of players that lead them to their CONCACAF Gold Cup title last month over the Americans, including young stars Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos.
Mexico's new head coach Javier Aguirre will also be able to rely on four critical components that weren’t available to his successor Sven-Goran Eriksson back in February when they lost to the Americans.
Chivas of Guadalajara defender Jonny Magallon and Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Andres Guardado were both injured. Vela and Cruz Azul midfielder Gerardo Torrado were suspended and Torrado should add some much needed aggression in the midfield.
The United States, who currently sit second in qualifying behind Costa Rica, won't reconvene until early September. They'll travel to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah to face El Salvador on the 5th before heading to Hasley Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain to face Trinidad and Tobago on September 9th.