USMNT in training

Saturday night, the United States and Mexico will renew their heated rivalry at the Rose Bowl. The winner of this CONCACAF playoff will earn a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, while also giving their fans their all-important bragging rights for months to come. Mexico is coming off of a controversial title run during this summer’s Gold Cup, while the U.S. has won just once in their last four matches. Can Jürgen Klinsmann’s men replicate their historic “Dos a Cero” performance from April, or will it be a Mexican romp in California?

Even though this is technically a home fixture for the United States, chances are that the Rose Bowl will be a predominantly pro-Mexican fan base. The last time these teams met in the historic California stadium was all the way back during the 2011 Gold Cup, where a disastrous U.S. collapse saw the Mexicans erase a two-goal deficit to win the final 4-2. During that match, it would’ve been easy to think that the two teams were playing south of the border as fans of the Mexican squad seemingly outnumbered U.S. fans 2-1. This level of support only adds to already passionate rivalry on the pitch, and if the away fans show up in force once again, they could be the key to a historic Mexican victory.

Despite their recent success in the Gold Cup, the Mexican National Team has been in the midst of a very drawn out managerial search. A physical altercation between former manager Miguel Herrera and a reporter forced the Mexican FA to sack their charismatic leader, and for the last two months they were still searching for his replacement. The man to finally step up to this pressure-filled position was current Sao Paolo manager Juan Carlos Osorio. While the former New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire coach won’t lead the team on Saturday (that responsibility still lies with interim manager Ricardo Ferretti), the match will give him a chance to analyze his new squad and get a first impression of which players he likes or dislikes. From the players’ perspectives, this big fixture gives them the opportunity to impress their new gaffer, or will the pressure cause them to shrink under the spotlight?

I think it’s fair to say that the United States’ defensive unit hasn’t really been the team’s strong suit as of late. During the Gold Cup, the team looked shaky at best when going up against teams like Panama and Jamaica and the media blasted Klinsmann for not altering his lineup to switch out the supposed poor performers. Even without Giovani Dos Santos available for the Mexicans, they still have the likes of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Andrés Guardado available in attack. This talented roster far outweighs the quality of Panama and Jamiaca, and in this type of fixture any defensive mistakes will be deadly. For me, the people that need to step up will be Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and Brad Guzan. These three players consistently go up against top level European talent every week for their club sides, and this type of experience should provide the rest of the team with some composure and confidence when the Mexicans get the ball.

Even though he’s no longer playing, Landon Donovan has found a way to get involved in the headlines before this fixture. During an interview, the 33-year-old told reporters that if the Americans fail to win on Saturday, then Klinsmann should be sacked. Donovan said, “The reality is that now, anywhere else in the world, if this coach had those results, and they lose the game against Mexico, they’d be fired.” While it’s unclear if the USSF feels the same way as Donovan, it’s not too far fetched to believe that a poor performance Saturday could spell the end of Klinsmann’s reign. Can the legendary German striker cope with the hot seat?

As much as I want to believe that the U.S. can pull of a result Saturday night, there just hasn’t been enough quality shown in their last several matches for me to actually expect it. The Mexican team just has too much pace and skill for the Americans in my opinion and I think they will be the one’s representing CONCACAF for the Confederations Cup. Final Score: U.S. 1-3 Mexico


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