The U.S. men’s national team will take the pitch tonight in Columbus, Ohio, with a chance to make it a very special night.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s team is currently in second place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, one point back of Costa Rica. The Ticos defeated the Americans on Friday night to break their 12-match winning streak. A win by the U.S. tonight at Columbus Crew Stadium, combined with a Honduras win or tie against visiting Panama, means the Americans can punch their ticket to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, there is one thing standing in the way of the celebration – arch-rival Mexico.
At first glance, it may seem as if the U.S. has a major advantage heading into the game, especially when you consider that:
- This will be the fourth consecutive home qualifying match the U.S. will play against Mexico in Columbus. The U.S. has won the previous three, all by the score of 2-0.
- The U.S. is unbeaten in nine games at Columbus Crew Stadium, posting a 6-0-3 record.
- The U.S. has not lost a home qualifier against Mexico since 1972, posting a record of 4-0-2 since then.
But things are never that simple in sports. For starters, the U.S. will be without four key players.
Central midfielder Michael Bradley will miss the game with an ankle sprain suffered during warm-ups for the Costa Rica game. They will also be without defenders Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler, along with forward Jozy Altidore, who are all suspended after receiving their second yellow cards during the game against Costa Rica. In their place are midfielders Joe Corona, Brad Davis and Jose Torres and defender Clarence Goodson.
For their part, the U.S. team is not panicking about facing its biggest rival with a short-handed roster.
“I think there are things we look at (from the Costa Rica loss) and think we can get those right and we’ll be a heck of a lot more solid,” goalkeeper Tim Howard told Sports Illustrated. “At the same time, we’ve been playing well. That happens. Sometimes, you get your butt kicked. That’s part of it. You just have to shake it off and move on. I think this group has the resilience to move on.”
If the Americans are to move on, they will have to get past an El Tri squad that may currently appear broken, they are still a dangerous squad – especially if with Gio Dos Santos, who always seems to give the Americans problems, and Javier Hernandez on the roster.