WILL DYER (@w2dyer), our resident CONCACAF expert, gives us his opinion on the World Cup qualifying clash between North America's increasingly fractious rivals.
Mexico v USA | Monday 01:30
CONCACAF’s giants square-off on Sunday night at the unparalleled Estadio Azteca. The hosts are in the driving seat for qualification from the continent’s sole group. El Tri are unbeaten with a W4-D1-L0 record which has them five points clear of Costa Rica and six of this weekend’s opposition, the USA.
Mexico defeated the USMNT 2-1 in Ohio in the first group game through a late winner from the enigma that is 38 year-old veteran centre-half Rafael Marquez. That win meant qualification in first place was going to be an uphill struggle from the get go for the Yanks.
The Americans then went on to lose 4-0 in Costa Rica making it their worst start to a qualifying campaign and heaviest loss in qualification since 1957. Fortunately, qualification for World Cups from the North and Central American confederation, commonly known as the ‘Hex’ is always a doddle for these nations given that three of six teams go through.
Those back-to-back defeats spelled the end of a five-year reign for JUrgen Klinsmann. His successor, former LA Galaxy boss, Bruce Arena has turned things around nicely; unbeaten in six and winning two of the three group games that followed.
If the USA are to wrangle second place away from Costa Rica, or even upset the Mexican applecart, they must get a result at the Azteca. However, that’s easier said than done. The US have never won a competitive game on Mexican soil in 16 attempts dating back to 1949.
El Tri won nine consecutive home games against them until 1993 but since the mid-nineties and the formation of Major League Soccer there have been wholesale changes to the setup and finances of the beautiful game in the USA.
Since then the US have managed four draws in normal time in Mexico City, one friendly win and also knocked their fierce rivals out of the 2002 World Cup in the Round of 16. The US are in a transitional period at the moment though, still propped up by five players with well over 100 caps but with little certainty over the identity of their replacements.
Christian Pulisic, the Borussia Dortmund winger, is by far and away their most exciting prospect. The 19-year-old scored a brace as the US beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 on Friday night.
The rest of the scoring corps needs some work. Clint Dempsey is ageing and despite his fantastic record on the international scene, Jozy Altidore isn’t good enough to push the US on to greater things.
As for Mexico, it’s a relatively different defence and midfield these days, Rafa Marquez, Miguel Layun and Andres Guardado left out means that Carlos Salcedo, Oswaldo Alanis and Ricardo Reyes are all likely to start.
Up front, El Tri have an embarrassment of riches in the shape of Javier Hernandez, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta whom between them have 115 international goals.
With both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America to compete in these days, working out who starts is always tricky. Mexico beat Honduras 3-0 on Friday night but ‘Chicharito’ didn’t get a look in.
The hosts are the worthy favourites but 11/20 at BetVictor is too short for me. The overall record between these two regardless of location since 2000 is now in favour of the US, W13-D7-L5.
The 2,000-metre altitude and vast stadium in the concrete jungle of Santa Ursula makes for an extremely intimidating venue and so, at home, Juan Carlos Osorio’s men are a forced to be reckoned with for anyone but I feel they could be a little complacent considering the lead they’ve developed.
Both Teams To Score is priced at 15/13 with 188Bet. Eight of the last 14 meetings have seen both sides find the net and it’s not in Arena’s DNA to set up for a tight game.
Mexico v USA – Both Teams To Score (15/13 188Bet)