Having responded to the crisis of confidence in coach Jurgen Klinsmann last week with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in a snow globe in Denver, the U.S. men's national team can get back to its good old maximum-intensity rivalry with Mexico.
When the two teams meet before more than 100,000 fans at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Tuesday, it will be the first time since a 1-0 victory for the United States in August. That was the first U.S. win on Mexican soil (improving the U.S. to 1-23-1 overall). But it also was a friendly. Mexico is 13-0-1 at home against its northern neighbor in World Cup qualifying.
Klinsmann, meanwhile, remains undefeated in six games against Mexico as a player and coach but has struggled tactically in meaningful games as U.S. coach. To extend his streak to seven, he will have to start at least seven different players from last summer's clash. Jermaine Jones (left ankle sprain) went back to Germany, meaning Sacha Kljestan or Maurice Edu could jump into the starting 11. There are positive signs Klinsmann will resist the lineup shuffling that typified the semifinal round of qualifying and retain most of the group that beat Costa Rica.
That victory moved the U.S. (1-1-0, three points) from last to second place in the six-team qualifying group, giving it little to lose Tuesday in a venue where it has fallen so many times before. The Mexicans (0-0-2, two points) are the ones under pressure, tied with three teams right behind the U.S. Should Klinsmann produce an upset, however unlikely, he will go from zero to hero almost overnight.
- Craig Stouffer