US-Mexico Preview

We’re gonna lose.

I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to accept it. Did you really think we would go the rest of our lives and never lose to Mexico again, ever? Over the past fifty years, every truly world class player the region has produced, with the possible exception of Dwight Yorke, has represented the Mexican national team. Their clubs are among the richest, most popular, and best supported teams in the entire world.

And for the first time since Hugo Sanchez, Mexico is sending players to the top leagues in Europe. No Benny Feilhaber sitting for Derby County here. Rafa Marquez, Pavel Pardo, Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, and now Nery Castillo. When these guys go to Europe, they go to win.

The United States has played very inspired, very exciting, and very disciplined games against Mexico teams that have been short on talent, historically speaking, and very badly coached. It’s not realistic to expect continued, unbroken dominance over a team with the kind of talent base, resources and history that Mexico has to command. It’s impossible. It’s going to happen. Get used to the idea. We’re gonna lose.

Just not next week.

They’re still badly coached, for one thing. Every time you, United States fan, feel like lamenting the lack of coaching acumen in the country, simply say “At least we’re not Mexico.”

Hugo Sanchez is another in the long and glorious list of superstar players who will make, at best, an inelegant transition to international coaching. In his defense, he seems to be correctly and belatedly bringing in a slew of young talent that, down the road…once again, that’s down the road…will torment the United States.

The midfield and defense for Mexico will be an experienced, talented group with lots of history of losing exactly these kinds of games. Sure, on paper Marquez, Osorio, Salcido, Pardo Guardado, Naelson and Torrado should be able to shut the US down. And in theory, an experienced hunter armed with a shotgun should be able to kill an anorexic jackrabbit, yet Bugs Bunny always gets the better of Elmer Fudd. Go figure.

Even if you do like the Mexican spine, at its base is the overrated Guillermo Ochoa. He’s only 22, of course, and he has plenty of time to become one of the region’s better keepers. In this upcoming cycle, he might end up being one of the top four keepers in CONCACAF. Problem is, the three ahead of him will be American.

Forward is a very different story. You have to like Nery Castillo – actually, from our point of view, you have to hate him. Fortunately for the United States, he’s injured. Look, this isn’t about sportsmanship, this is about winning. If you want sportsmanship, go to BigCricket.

Happily for them and sadly for us, Nery is not the only young forward available. Giovani Dos Santos looks depressingly likely to continue the tradition of second generation Brazilian stars playing for Mexico and torturing the United States. (Some of us still have nightmares about Zague.) Carlos Vela on the shuttle from Arsenal to Osasuna is only freaking 18. Juan Carlos Cacho of Pachuca is in his prime. The days when we could rely on incompetence from Borgetti, Omar Bravo, Mis-Kikin Fonseca and latter-day Blanco are long gone. Hugo did call in journeyman Antonio de Nigris and cement-head Bofo Bautista, but this was clearly done in order to give me false hope. It’ll be Vela and Cacho, unless Sanchez loses his mind yet again.

That sort of depth at forward should make any American weep with envy. Our best young forward will be with the U-23 team - we think. They haven’t even told Jozy Altidore yet whether he’s playing on Wednesday, according to his blog on the New York Times site.

Generally, though, the United States seems to be keeping its Olympic squad separate from its “full international” (TM Jack Edwards) squad, which is indicative of how seriously the US took its pratfall four years ago under the late Mooch Myernick. It’s also indicative of how many extra chances someone like Taylor Twellman gets.

The reason the United States lineup is even more unpredictable is because of FIFA’s foolish idea of limited transfer windows. This isn’t the time or the place to launch into FIFA, but the practical effect of the January transfer window is that everyone from Eddie Johnson to Brad Guzan face the possibility of an immediate move to a team in mid-season. This has already happened for Johnson, and so the national team trains without him.

The call of club duty, which the FIFA calendar was supposed to prevent with the international calendar, will cost the US much more dearly than Mexico. I’m looking forward to seeing how well post-Premiership Clint Dempsey meshes with his old friends on the national team, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer. It would also be nice to see Tim Howard, but let’s be frank – the United States is deep enough at goalkeeper. Just because the Border and Immigration Agency doesn’t appreciate Brad Guzan doesn’t mean that Aston Villa was wrong. Or that he can’t handle Mexico’s kids.

Most of the US goals in recent history, especially against Mexico, have come from midfield. The Gold Cup final leaps to mind. We might not see Benny Feilhaber, another victim of transfer window silliness, but Landon Donovan will once again try to defend his title as Lord High Mexicutioner. Some day Donovan will have a bad game against Mexico, but he sure didn’t have one last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. He did have a lousy Olympics qualification game against them, though.

Assuming Mexico puts eighteen men on Donovan, that should open up space for the other midfielders. Whoever they will be. Right now, aside from Landon, the US forwards in camp are Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark, Pat Noonan and Justin Mapp. I think Bob’s gonna call in some European-based players on Sunday, call it a hunch. But who?

If Bobby Convey and DaMarcus Beasley absent, this might be a breakout international game for Brad Davis. Or, it might just be Donovan running the show again. It could conceivably include Michael Bradley, but he’s only on the team because of nepotism and certainly can’t score goals.

Ives Galarcep projected a back line of Spector, Onyewu, Bocanegra, and Cherundolo. I think this was assuming that Bocanegra was expendable at Fulham these days. Nevertheless, I believe Jimmy Conrad has to be in there in the middle, I don’t care for who. By the way, Jay DeMerit is still alive. I felt that needed pointing out. Spector and Cherundolo have failed to impress me, but Jonathan Bornstein is recovering from surgery, my chapter of the Todd Dunivant Fan Club meets in a phone booth, and I’m even less in love with Corrales, Simek and Moor than I am with Spector. Which is why I believe Conrad will be crucial here. Fortunately, as we’ve seen, he will be either facing inexperience or incompetence.

So I believe the defense will be strong and canny enough to handle Mexico’s young stars, and Donovan should be able to exploit the same holes that he has for years now. I would say the US has a shutout, and that Donovan gets one goal early and Davis sets up Bradley (or perhaps Altidore off the bench) for another.

Oh, a 2-0 US win? What are the odds.