The ghost of the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup continues to lurk in the shadows for the US Men’s National Team (USMNT). Indeed, despite being in second place in the Octagonal with three games to play, many fans are a nervous wreck. The players seem to be hyper-aware of it as well, with most players saying during media availability this week that qualification was a must and the bottom line. It will be a tough stretch though as this final window of qualifying in the altitude and the smog of Mexico City.
The roster called in to this camp by coach Gregg Berhalter has already been severely diminished by injuries to Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Brenden Aaronson, and Matt Turner, who are all out with various ailments prior to the roster dropping on Sunday. Further compounding issues was Berhalter’s stubborn and bizarre decision to, once again, leave John Brooks at home. Of the players that did make it to camp, Christian Pulisic is the headliner with goals in each of the last two qualifying windows. Also on the frontline is Gio Reyna who is just now returning from an injury picked up on club duty with Borussia Dortmund.
The midfield is anchored by RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams in addition to Valencia’s Yunus Musah, but also includes MLS stalwarts (and perennial Berhalter favorites) Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan. The back line is inexplicably without John Brooks and Berhalter has opted to go with a number of highly inexperienced players in his stead. James Sands, George Bello, and Erik Palmer-Brown all have fewer than eight caps. DeAndre Yedlin and Walker Zimmerman have 25 or more. In goal, it’s much the same as it over was, minus Matt Turner, with Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath figuring to split time between the sticks.
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Mexico has had an up and down time during qualifying. They started out well, winning four and drawing twice in their first six games. November, however, was a different story as they once again fell in Ohio to the US by that famous 2-0 score line and then lost 2-1 to Canada in Edmonton. The window in late January and early February provided a return to normal as they won twice and drew once. But qualifying does not take place in a vacuum and a loss to the US, coupled with a Nations League final loss to the US as well as a Gold Cup final loss to the US has left El Tri fans somewhat soured on Tata Martino. However their chances of getting to Qatar are just as good and maybe even better than those of the US as they sit in 3rd place in the Octagonal and have two of their final three games at home.
The Mexico roster for this final window is as close to an all-out roster as they’ve had under Martino with Ochoa in goal, a backline trio with over 50 caps apiece in Hector Moreno, Jesus Gallardo, and Nestor Araujo, Hector Herrera in the midfield, and a front line of Raul Jimenez, Jesus Corona and Hirving Lozano.
The US has two road games in this final qualifying window in places they have never won a qualifier: at Mexico and at Costa Rica.
When and where to watch the game on US TV
USA trails 22-36-15
Friday, November 12, 2021
USA 2-0 Mexico
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