USA vs. Mexico | CONCACAF Cup Preview
USA vs. MEXICO
2015 CONCACAF Cup
October 10 | 9:30 p.m. ET | Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
TV: FS1, Univision, UDN
For nearly a century, the Rose Bowl has hosted a college gridiron football game dubbed “The Granddaddy of Them All,” and while the CONCACAF Cup is a newborn creation, the scope and stakes of this inaugural matchup make it deserving of the title.
Mexico-USA is a passionate, multilayered rivalry whose allure has grown beyond the region to become recognized as one of the modern global game's most vibrant matchups, and never more so than when a trophy is on the line. The latest edition of the border showdown concerns hardware – but it's plane tickets to Russia everyone is lusting after. Saturday's winner will represent the North American region at the 2017 Confederations Cup, battling world-class opposition while touring the 2018 World Cup host nation, an opportunity both combatants crave.
KNOWN UNKNOWNS: With one team dealing with a long list of injury concerns and another in an extended period of tinkering, making tactical predictions for this one is guesswork at best, according to MLSsoccer.com Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle. That's raised the uncertainty quotient, which is tough for journalists, but good for the already-heightened aura of anticipation and excitement.
HOT TICKET: You can bet that every one of the 92,000-plus seats in Pasadena's august arena will be filled, with the game having been pronounced a sellout well in advance; tickets on secondary market Web sites are reaching many times face value. To underline that point, one El Tri fan's emotional reaction to a gift of tickets has gone viral on social media. Security will be tight, given that these teams' last meeting at the Rose Bowl, a 4-2 Mexico win in the 2011 Gold Cup final, was marred by incidents of violence and conflict in the dominantly pro-El Tri crowd. CONCACAF has gone to some lengths to create a peaceful and balanced affair: Each federation received 30 percent of the total ticket allocation and Mexican fans are being clustered in the north end of the bowl, opposite US partisans in the south end.
CONTRASTS IN COACHING: The two men leading these teams could hardly occupy more divergent places heading into this clash. USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann faces a growing chorus of criticism after a poor Gold Cup campaign, yet he remains a trusted lieutenant of U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati regardless of what happens in Pasadena. Conversely, Mexico's endless coaching turnover continues, with interim leader Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti expected to lead El Tri to victory and hand off the job to former MLS coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who just departed Sao Paulo FC in Brazil to transition into the Mexico job, before returning to Liga MX's Tigres.
INJURY REPORT: The last few weeks have brought one blow after another for El Tri in this department, with LA Galaxy star striker Giovani Dos Santos and influential central midfielder Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez the latest to bow out with muscular problems this week. Andres Guardado seems to have shaken off last month's ankle knock, but Tuca & Co. are also sweating over the fitness of former New York Red Bull Rafa Marquez, with some even suggesting that the Italian-based defender is only in camp as a decoy at this point. Marquez is reportedly set to play, but if he can't go, it could necessitate a significant formation change for Mexico, as he anchors the 5-3-2 shape that is a holdover from Feretti's predecessor Miguel “Piojo” Herrera.
It's a been a bit less eventful for the Yanks, though veteran midfielder Alejandro Bedoya missed training time due to illness this week and DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey have been nagged by recurring injury worries in recent months.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Michael Bradley, USA: As the son of a former USMNT coach and a US international since adolescence, the captain can truly say he's spent his whole life preparing for moments like this. He's the most influential and dynamic midfielder available to Klinsmann, with a history of scoring big goals against El Tri. Will his coach assign him a tactical tasking that makes the most of his abilities?
Javier Hernandez, Mexico: With a recent move to Bayer Leverkusen, “Chicharito” seems to have finally found stability and confidence at the club level. Fairly or not, he carries the burden of sky-high expectations in his country's colors, with the emotions of millions rising and falling on his every touch. He's got even more to prove this weekend: He's never scored against the United States.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Michael Orozco (Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (Galaxy)
Goalkeepers: Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Moises Munoz (Club America), Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey)
Defenders: Arturo Rivas (Tigres), Rafa Marquez (Hellas Verona), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Jorge Torres (Tigres), Miguel Layun (Porto), Hector Moreno (PSV Eindhoven), Hector Herrera (Porto), Paul Aguilar (Club America)
Midfielders: Israel Jimenez (Tigres), Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal), Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven), Javier Aquino (Tigres), Javier Guemez (Club America), Elias Hernandez (Club León)
Forwards: Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Giovani dos Santos (Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad), Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen), Jesus Corona (Porto), Oribe Peralta (Club America), Carlos Esquivel (Toluca)
To read all of MLSsoccer.com’s coverage of the CONCACAF Cup, visit our CONCACAF Cup page.