The CONCACAF Cup game will take place Saturday night in Pasadena, Ca. and will decide who will claim a ticket to Russia for the Confederations Cup: the United States or Mexico.
Considering the two teams never met or faced each other during the Gold Cup this past summer, this match has lots of expectations. Both teams have had interesting journeys leading up to this game. The US failed to make the final during the Gold Cup and their last couple of friendlies against Peru and Brazil was not very strong for the American side.
El Tri,on the other hand, has been constant with their inconsistency. Their road to the Gold Cup final was full of controversy. Both their quarter final and semifinal games were won off penalties and although they showed their strength by beating the favorable Jamaica in the final, it still left many skeptics feeling the same. Top that off with their ties against both Trinidad & Tobago and Argentina (which also has them leading the games at certain points), an interim coach (and now, a new coach by the name of Juan Carlos Osorio) and to call Mexico the better team could be put up for debate.
But it shouldn’t. Mexico has a much stronger team when it comes to individuals. He might be injured but Gio Dos Santos has shown tremendous skill since he came to Los Angeles to play for LA Galaxy. Chicharito’s trade from Manchester United to Bayern Leverkusen has also seen the striker amp up his level of confidence, scoring goals and having more playing time than he had with his two previous teams. Carlos Vela has been somewhat flimsy with El Tri, missing more chances than he should in his position but the time he has been given with Real Sociedad should prove to give him more fitness and ability than we have seen in his last couple of matches.
Tecatito injured also creates a burden in the middle, leaving Jonathan to try to balance out going up the field with going back to defend more than he is used to (the same situation for Guardado on the side). Hector Herrera could prove to be helpful considering his playing has improved since the Gold Cup. Rafa is back as the leader of the defense after numerous reports stated he might not play at all. His confidence will help control the back against the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Gyasi Zardes up front.
Mexico also has plenty of solid bench players that should make an impact. The number of strikers they have for themselves (Chicharito, Vela, Jimenez, Peralta) is an advantage and if they live up to their potential, could lead to some positive results. Their midfield is left a little troubled without Tecatito but is still considerably strong with Aquino and Esquivel there to help.
As always, the real challenge Mexico faces in themselves. Defensively, it’s about errors. The Argentina friendly saw Munoz ruin his practically perfect game with a bad decision to come out and challenge a ball. Historically, the defense tends to make little mistakes that lead to unforgiving consequences.
Up top, just the opposite. The attacking side is too timid, oftentimes taking too long to score a goal (if at all). Bad touches and horrible finishing has left Mexico in a bad situation more times than anyone cares to admit.
The team might have a Gold Cup title on their side and in their favor, but they did not have a chance to show their strength against the United States during that tournament. And their last friendlies against the American side unfortunately have resulted in the “Dos a Cero” chants being shouted by fans.
This is the first official game in a while against the United States that is more than just bragging rights. It actually means something and matters more than the other games. The rivalry is always going to be there. But with the rise in soccer fans in the United States and the increasing momentum the game is getting, both teams must step up to the plate. Mexico just has more to bring to the table and should proudly show why they are the stronger team.