With Bob on our side

Nick Green stole my takes.

As always, by "stole," I mean, "wrote it down before I did."

Here's how good Green's analysis is. We've been reading all week about how the US will deal with the incredible, intolerable heat of the Mexican summer. Huge factor, we were told.

So what does Nick do? Just goes and looks up the forecast, is all.

Granted, smog and altitude will still be factors...well, the smog won't, if it rains.

Can you just imagine? The most crucial game for El Tri in probably ever, and God can't even see fit to make it hot and smoggy in Mexico City. Maybe God IS American.

Sorry, it was about forty-five minutes between paragraphs - I went into a catatonic trance picturing Lou Dobbs as God. It won't happen again, I promise.

I mean, seriously. WRONG DOBBS.

There is one part where I disagree:

It's not irrelevant. Mexico believes in themselves again. This team was dead in the water before that game. Even a 3-0 loss could conceivably have been shrugged off.

But 5-0? Just say it out loud to yourself. Mexico beat the United States in the United States by five goals. That's a bad old days 1960's type result. US fans know the context, certainly I hope US players do, but the damage has been done. Unless you think Mexico has now schizoided themselves all the way back to overconfidence - but I would rather have had certain self-doubt and despair than the chance of arrogance.

This is why for the first time in recorded history - certainly for the last time since Junipero Serra was told why they didn't have postgame interviews in the losing team's locker room after the Aztec Cup Final - Mexico City might have been a mental disadvantage for the home side.

In fact, it probably would have been, were it not for the Gold Cup.

Mexico has to win, of course. If Mexico wakes up Thursday morning with a 22-0-2 (EDIT: there. Happy? GEEZ) record against the United States in the Azteca, the good option is that they will still be in fourth place, with one fewer home game on the schedule. If El Salvador wins in Warnerstan, then Mexico is the proud owner of fifth place.

Sure, with home games remaining against Salvador and Honduras, Mexico will still be in control of its destiny. But anything less than three points for the home team tomorrow cancels out the Gold Cup win.

Meanwhile, according to the standings, the worst case scenario outcomes for the United States are either remaining in second, or being tied for second. Simply win in Sandy and RFK, and passage is booked. All that the United States has to do is avoid being utterly, comprehensively embarrassed.

Again.

This may sound like I'm pre-emptively making excuses for a loss. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm pre-emptively reminding people that a loss is far from devastating for the United States.

So who will win? The key for Mexico is Rafa Marquez. If he plays, Mexico loses.

So many of Rafa Marquez' very worst moments have come against the United States, but the one last jewel in the crown, one seemingly impossible to obtain, would be to lead Mexico to defeat in the Azteca. He's more than capable of it. If only Osvaldo Sanchez were playing as well, I'd predict a full on 0-2.

There's always the hope that Aguirre replicates the coaching he showed against the United States in 2002, but sadly I think he has a handle on what his young team is capable of.

The key for the United States is Brian Ching. If he plays, Mexico wins.

I'm trying to look at this through the red mist of anger at Holden, Ching, and Marshall (and, I guess to be fair, Bradley) for bringing Mexico back to life last month. But I think we saw what Ching is capable of against Mexico last month, viz., nothing. It's a lot easier for me to picture Altidore and Davies duplicating their form against Spain than Ching totally reversing his form against what will be many of the same players.

Hell, put Casey in there. At least he knows from altitude.

Then there's Landon, of course. If any US team is going to win in Mexico City, it will be with Landon Donovan playing at the very peak of his game. Which, um, yeah, that's where he is. He's the other reason that, barring the Gold Cup, I'd have joined the US fanboy bandwagon and picked the visiting team.

A tie is almost as good as a loss for Mexico, and they know it. I think they get the winner late. Especially if our gameplan is to go a hundred miles an hour full press early hoping to get a lead before the lack of oxygen kicks in - making it a virtual self-fulfilling prophecy, since you can only substitute three players, leaving seven guys gasping. (I assume Tim Howard will be all right. I hope, anyway.)

Bradley seems to have taken in the high mountain air into account, though. We'll see if Bob is genius or sub-genius.