In less than a week, the United States MNT will take on Mexico in their first true test of 2008. Coach Bob Bradley recalled 21 players to camp to prepare for the match.
The MNT had a dream year in 2007 year against Mexico, likely because both games were played away from the thin air of Azteca Stadium. In February, the U.S. demoralized Mexico, who had recalled many of their seasoned veterans for Coach Hugo Sanchez’s first game, by winning 2-0 in Arizona despite being largely outplayed. The Mexicans’ frustration was most apparent when their keeper, Oswaldo Sanchez, tried to take a cheap shot at Eddie Johnson after Landon Donovan put the game away with a goal in extra time. It was fitting though that even Sanchez’s attempted foul missed its mark as the Mexicans, despite playing well, simply could not put a shot on target.
In June, the U.S. won the CONCACAF Gold Cup by defeating Mexico in an exciting game in Chicago. Not only did the MNT overcome a deficit to win the game, but they did so in dramatic fashion. Benny Feilhaber’s amazing goal, a blazing volley from over fifty feet out, was likely the goal of the year for the MNT. Furthermore, Donovan emerged as the U.S.’s best offensive threat throughout the tournament, and ended up notching nine goals in twelve games in 2007, including goals in four straight games during the CONCACAF tourney.
Now the time has come to see if the U.S. MNT can build on last year’s momentum.
If the U.S. is going to extend its winning streak over Mexico to four games, it is going to need huge performances from Donovan, Taylor Twellman, and Chris Rolfe. Furthermore, because of an injury to Kyle Beckerman, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, and Justin Mapp are all likely to see significant playing time in midfield. Finally, the MNT will rely on an MLS-heavy defensive line, including Todd Dunivant, Michael Parkhurst, Jimmy Conrad, and Eddie Robinson. Brad Guzan is expected to get his sixth cap between the pipes.
Bradley will also rely heavily on the U.S.’s Scandinavian-based players, as he named five to the squad, including Clarence Goodson, Pat Noonan, Dan Califf, Ramiro Corrales, and Jeremiah White.
Though Wednesday’s game is “technically” at home in Houston, there is expected to be, as always, a large enough contingent of Mexican fans to make the MNT feel like the visitors. Hopefully, veterans like Donovan and Conrad can inspire the younger players to overcome their inexperience and the U.S. will continue its recent dominance over its neighbor to the South.