USMNT Report: Finding Form in PhoenixThe United States prepares for another World Cup tune-up match against Mexico
by Herb Scribner | Wednesday, April 02, 2014
The United States Men’s National Team’s next friendly just might be its most important.
Later tonight, the USMNT takes on regional rival Mexico in another tune-up match before the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer.
It’s important for the Yanks, as it’ll shed light on how strong the USA is compared to the resurgent Mexico side, and if the MLS-heavy lineup is ready for the summer tournament.
THE ROAD TO NOW: The USA has had a mediocre start in 2014. After a 2-0 drubbing over South Korea, the Americans were baffled and embarrassed by Ukraine 2-0. One saving grace for the United States against Mexico is that the last time these two teams faced off, the USA won in another dos a cero decision to qualify for the World Cup.
PRE-GAME CHATTER: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said that Mexico’s mostly Liga MX side may be more prepared for the contest than the MLS players of the USA.
“There’s nothing better than doing that against their main rival the United States. So we really have to be on our toes,” Klinsmann said. “We have to be very focused and alert. Similar to what the MLS teams faced in the CONCACAF Champions League, we don’t have as many games for our players that the Mexican team has. They’ve started their championship already at the end of January, so there might be a little advantage for them. But we’ll make sure everybody is on board, and they’ll have a point to prove because we are only a couple weeks away from deciding on the 23 guys that go to Brazil.”
ANALYSIS: Time is ticking away, and the United States still has a lot to work on and roster spots to solidify before the World Cup this summer.
This upcoming friendly will help Klinsmann make some final calls on who he’s seriously considering for Brazil, as well as settling on where players are aligned in the depth chart.
Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, who competed in MLS play this past weekend, will be in action against Mexico. Though Jermaine Jones is likely to get the start for Klinsmann’s side as his favored more defensive midfielder, Beckerman is still searching for a way into that starting rotation, and a good performance against Mexico may launch him forward. Beckerman’s hot start in MLS play and excellent form for club and country this past last year warrants him a starting position for the US against Mexico, and even for the 2014 World Cup.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Klinsmann uses Julian Green, the Bayern Munich prodigy who recently chose the USA over Germany for international play. Green is known to mainly play on the left wing, though he’s adaptable in multiple offensive possessions. With Jozy Altidore in very poor form this season at Sunderland in the EPL and the USA without a top level striker in any better shape, Green could slot in up top and provide an interesting option in attack.
But the USA will have some new lineup issues with defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco unable to join the team, as their Mexican club, Puebla, is not releasing them for the affair. Being Klinsmann’s side has a defense stability issue, a position where Beasley has played consistently the past year or so, filling his leftback role will be a difficulty that will need to be solved. Bringing in longtime RSL steward Tony Beltran will be a big positive for the US, as Beltran played tremendously well against Toronto FC last weekend. His inclusion in the team could replace an injured Brad Evans or even push Yedlin out of the role.
The match against Mexico means more than other friendlies the USA will play in 2014. Mexico is the regional rival, and a team that’s looking to sort out its identity and return to the glory that was overshadowed with disappointment during much of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying campaign. For the USA to escape Arizona with a win, it’ll instill confidence in the team and show that it is still the best in a (weakened) CONCACAF.
But a loss may be damaging to that same psyche. The USA has world class opponents waiting for it in Brazil — Portugal, Germany and Ghana — so a loss to this lesser Mexican side, which barely made this World Cup and would have missed it altogether had it not been for the US, will likely knock the Americans down a couple of pegs and break the spirit of a domestic-based USA team.
Hopefully though this mostly MLS team does better against their Mexican foe than the league’s clubs did recently in CONCACAF Champions League matches.
NEXT UP: April 2 – Friendly: United States vs. Mexico, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. 11 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas.