Only a couple of hours until kickoff of one of the most anticipated games in recent U.S. soccer history. Here is a breakdown of some of the key match-ups for tonight’s game.
Tim Howard has been in really good form for Everton recently while Mexico will counter with the the experience of the 35-year old Oswaldo Sanchez, who has a commanding presence in the box. Howard is the much better goalkeeper of the two and the advantage here goes to the U.S.
U.S. Defense v Mexico’s Forwards
Bocanegra and Onyewu were outstanding in the qualifying rounds and they will control anything hit in the air tonight. I expect Hejduk to play on the right and Bornstein at left back.
Mexico has struggled to score recently even though they have goal scorers like Castillo, Bravo, Franco, Vuoso and Dos Santos. Mexico will be without their best finisher tonight as Carlos Vela will miss the game via suspension.
Mexico’s forwards don’t worry me that much as they have not shown they can score consistently on the big stage of World Cup qualifiers. Their best hope is through a quick passing attack to taker advantage of the slower U.S. defenders. Advantage U.S. here.
This is where the game will be decided tongiht. The US will almost certainly have Michael Bradley and DeMarcus Beasley in their normal roles, with Sacha Kljestan in the middle after his great game against Sweden. The question for Bradley is whether he plays Dempsey or Donovan on the right side of midfield. Dempsey is a far better defender, and probably more adept at playing on the flank, but Donovan’s pace is a threat from the wide spots. The more defensive option, which is likely, is to play with Dempsey on the right with Donovan playing up front.
Mexico have a number of options in the midfield. Pavel Pardo, Mexico’s brilliant 32-year-old defensive midfielder, is a shoo-in. Beyond that, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s options are wide open, especially with the absence of regular first-teamer Andres Guardado, who was injured recently playing for Deportivo la Coruna. Antonio Naelson is a likely option to team with Pardo in a central role. Mexican starlet Giovani Dos Santos could also provide an attacking presence out of the midfield, but is probably better suited to run the flank as he has for his club, Tottenham Hotspur, this season.
If Mexico decides to go more defensive, Pinto could also be asked to play on the left side of midfield. Pinto seems to be variable in the lineup. You have the ball control of Mexico versus the more adventuresome U.S. and this will be an interesting battle. This one is probably a draw.
Mexico’s Defense v U.S. Forwards
Mexico’s defensive line will be led once again by the impeccable Rafael Marquez, who is the best defender in CONCACAF, and is probably the best player on the field tonight. Joining Marquez will be Carlos Salcido, a 28-year-old classy veteran, and Ricardo Osorio, another veteran with over 60 caps for Mexico. The only question mark for Mexico is who plays at left back, and they might have to resort to playing Pinto, a midfielder, to try and the speed on the U.S. flanks.
Up front for the U.S. I expect to see Donovan and Ching, with Ching playing the role of the target striker. The advantage here goes to Mexico, simply because of the presence of Marquez.
I expect a very tight game tonight, but one that the U.S. will win 1-0 or 2-0. Check back tomorrow for a recap and analysis of the game.