USA vs Mexico: Preview and Projected Lineups

19 Jan 1997: Luis Roberto Alves of Mexico kicks Alexi Lalas of the United States during an US Cup game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
19 Jan 1997: Luis Roberto Alves of Mexico kicks Alexi Lalas of the United States during an US Cup game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. /

Will Dos A Cero repeat again tonight?

One of the biggest rivalries in international football kicks off tonight, as the US take on Mexico in Columbus to open the hex.

The hosts are slowly in a process of generation change under Jurgen Klinsmann, as key players like Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Tim Howard are aging and thus younger players such as John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Bobby Wood, and Christian Pulisic are becoming more important to the squad.

While Mexico are still adjusting to the life under Colombian tactician Juan Carlos Osorio. Under his guidance, El Tri have only lost once in 14 matches. They have won 11 of them and drew twice.

Although the results look great on paper, Osorio is under massive pressure. They recently suffered a 7-0 blow out against Chile in Copa America Centenario and the team hasn’t looked convincing since. His constant rotations and team selections have also caused a lot of disagreements and criticism.

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For this match and Tuesday showdown versus Costa Rica, Klinsmann called up 26 players. The squad is a mixture of veterans, younger but already experienced players, and some new faces. Players such as William Yarbrough, Ethan Hovrath, Caleb Stanko, and Lynden Gooch all have less than four caps under their belt while Tottenham Hotspur youngster Cameron Carter-Vickers is called up for the first time.

Meanwhile the visitors have brought in a star-studded 25-man squad to Columbus. A veteran captain Rafa Marquez remains on the squad along with other veterans such as Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno, and Guillermo Ochoa. Many emerging youngsters were called up as well like Jesus Manuel ‘Tecatito’ Corona,  Jurgen Damm, Hirving Lozano, Orbelin Pineda, and Carlos Salcedo.

Klinsmann is most likely going to come out with a traditional 4-4-2 system. Due to stellar performances for Colorado Rapids in MLS, Tim Howard has gotten the nod to start tonight between the posts. Although a midfielder by trade, Fabian Johnson will continue at left back for the national team and his chemistry with Pulisic down the left hand side will be a threat to the visitors.

After Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron was ruled out for this match due to an injury, Pachuca man Omar Gonzalez is likely to take his spot and partner up with John Brooks in the center of the defense. With Gonzalez standing at 6’5 and Brooks at 6’4, set pieces and headers will be their strengths when dealing with opponents. Current Newcastle wing back Yedlin is set to continue at the right back spot.

Bradley will sit in front of that back four to shore up the defense furthermore and help start out plays from the back. It will be curious to see whether Jones or Sacha Kljestan partners him in the middle of the park. Jones can bring in aggressiveness and energy that will be desperately needed for the Americans,  while Kljestan is a very creative player that can open up the El Tri defense. Young starlet Pulisic will start off on the left wing while Alejandro Bedoya is likely to start on the other side.

Klinsmann likes his teams to play with two forwards and he will continue with that tonight with Wood and Jozy Altidore. Wood is a pacey and lively player who can run in behind defenses while Altidore is a traditional big and strong forward, who can hold up the ball and win duels in the air. Aron Johannsson is also back from his injury and can come off the bench, if needed. Due to an injury to Jordan Morris, LA Galaxy man Alan Gordon was called up and his physical presence can also trouble Mexican defenders late in the game.

Osorio, understanding that his opposition coach is sending out two strikers, will likely bring in three center backs into the match with Salcedo of Fiorentina, Moreno of PSV, and Diego Reyes of Real Sociedad. According to Mexican and Spanish reports, Toluca man Alfredo Talavera is also emerging as a starter in goal. At 6’2 and known for his aerial presence, he seems like a better choice to deal with the physical Americans than Ochoa or Jesus Corona.

The midfield is going to be interesting for El Tri, as Orosio is most likely going to divide it into two parts. The first three will sit in the middle of the park and will look to dominate the midfield and the possession. Marquez seems like a perfect choice for the more defensive role in the trio while Guardado and Jonathan dos Santos of Villarreal play in front of him. The next three of midfield will play further up the pitch with one acting as an attacking midfielder and the other two as wingers. Corona and Carlos Vela are likely candidates to play on the wings while Porto midfielder Hector Herrera will be deployed just underneath the lone striker in 3-3-3-1 formation.

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez will lead the line in Columbus for Mexico. The 28-year-old forward is best known as a poacher who finds little pockets in 18-yard-box to score but is also capable of producing long-range goals. Benfica striker Raul Jimenez and veteran Club America man Oribe Peralta can come in during the second half.

Long history between two teams and their rivalry set up a very physical and intense match up. Not only Mexico have failed to win in the past in Columbus but they have lost all four previous meetings in 2-0 scorelines. They will look to exorcise its ‘Dos A Cero’ demons tonight while the US have a chip on their shoulders to produce a result against a side who looks superior on paper.

The key battle for the game will be the midfield, and whoever gets the control of the middle of the pitch will get a result going their way. Bradley-Kljestan partnership with Bedoya cutting back in at times can cover a lot of ground for the hosts, while Mexico will try to win the midfield by crowding it up and keeping the ball whenever possible.

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The visitors have many individuals who can win games by themselves but they seem to under-perform at times as a team. On the other hand, teamwork seems to be the biggest strength the US have and that might just be the deciding factor in tonight’s game. The Americans seem more comfortable in their system than Mexicans do and the history in Columbus heavily favors them. The hosts will grind out a 2-1 or 1-0 win.

Projected Lineups

USA (4-4-2) – Howard; Fabian Johnson, Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Yedlin; Pulisic, Bradley, Kljestan, Bedoya; Wood, Altidore.

Mexico (3-3-3-1) – Talavera; Moreno, Reyes, Salcedo; Marquez, Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos; Tecatito Corona, Herrera, Vela; Chicharito.