Washington (AFP) – For the past 15 years, the United States has owned arch-rival Mexico in World Cup home qualifying matches, each time coming away with a 2-0 victory at Columbus, Ohio.
Now with an emotional last-round qualifying opener between the border foes only a month away, US supporters are already practicing their battle cry: “Dos a Cero.”
“We’re looking forward to playing Mexico. You can’t get a game any bigger starting out at home,” US defender Matt Besler said Tuesday after the Americans drew New Zealand 1-1 in their final tuneup before North American regional qualifying begins.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann was testing young players in the match and liked what he saw from Besler — “a tremendous game” — as well as 21-year-old Bayern Munich forward Julian Green and 20-year-old Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch, who made his US debut.
“We had some questions. We found the answers,” Klinsmann said. “We saw a lot of things in the past 10 days that help us make up our minds before the Mexico clash.
“It will not be easy to choose the 23 but it was good we did it this way.”
Klinsmann has sought to analyze every available player as he seeks a lineup capable of shutting down Mexico star Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Klinsmann. “That clash is always very special. Emotions will go through the roof. Every player knows them very well. Their players know us. It will be a fun game in Columbus.”
Four days later, the Americans visit Costa Rica, where they have never won against the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists.
The Mexicans lead the United States 34-18 with 14 drawn in the all-time rivalry after winning the most recent meeting 3-2 at Pasadena, California, last October to decide a 2017 Confederations Cup berth.
But the US squad is 13-6 with five drawn since 2000 and outside of Pasadena, where Mexico has huge support, the Americans have not lost to Mexico since 2009.
New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson, whose squad lost to Mexico before facing the US team, praised US depth and ability to dominate play with a young, quick lineup.
“They had a lot of control of the field of play,” Hudson said. “The US has a very deep bench. Their subs that came on did well. The US has a fantastic squad of players.”
Green scored in a 2-0 US win at Cuba and against the All Whites while Gooch turned heads on the field as he had in workouts.
“Julian Green left us with a very strong impression. So did Gooch,” Klinsmann said. “Gooch confirmed what we saw in training. He takes people on. He is physical as well.”
– Special ‘aura’ in Columbus –
Green has three career goals in eight US career matches and Klinsmann said they will be watching him in workouts with the German club to see how he advances ahead of the Mexico match.
“It’s a big game, a special game for everyone,” Green said. “I’m looking forward to it. A game against Mexico will always be special to me.”
Gooch just wants a chance to show what he can do.
“Hopefully I caught Jurgen’s eye and I can be involved next month,” Gooch said.
The legacy of success at the intimate Columbus, usually in cold weather, is the US answer to the nightmare venue for most visitors that Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium offers visiting teams.
In the most recent Columbus qualifier in 2013, Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan scored for the Americans against Mexico.
“There’s an aura in Columbus when we play Mexico,” US midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We must use that to our advantage.”
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