It is time. We may not have all the stars in Nashville, but a solid USMNT will take on hated rivals Mexico tonight in our town. What should we see?
Opponent: Mexico (No. 16 FIFA World rankings, USA is No. 22)
Recent form: MEX: L-L-L-W-W (most recent a friendly, all others WC2018). USA: L-D-L-W-W (all friendlies
The Line: USA+ 165, Draw +224, Mexico +177
Time, Location: Tues., Sept. 11 • 8:10 p.m. CDT • Nissan Stadium
Event: International friendly
Weather: 73ºF, 4% chance of rain, 76% humidity, 5 MPH NNE winds
Watch: ESPN (English), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Follow: @NashvilleSC, @miseleccionmxEN
Elsewhere: Stars and Stripes FC preview and Mexico scouting. Is the rivalry diminished? TBQH this is a horrible (read: clickbait) way to frame what is actually a decent story. SHAME! MLSSoccer.com preview. USA Today Network – Tennessee actually managed to get some soccer talk in(!) thanks to the homie Nick Gray.
El Trí was thrashed by Uruguay Friday evening in Houston, with a 4-1 victory going the way of the inaugural World Cup champions. José Giménez opened the scoring in the 21st minute, before Mexico’s Raul Jiménez responded with a penalty kick just four minutes later. The biggest international name in the game – Barça’s Luis Suárez – would put Los Charrúas up in the 32nd minute, then cement that lead with a PK of his own in the 40th. Gastón Pereiro would put the finishing touches on in the 59th to make for a resounding scoreline.
It’s worth noting, this is not an A-team for Mexico (especially since they, like the USA, released several players back to their clubs after their first game in the International Window). No Memo Ochoa in net (neither of the available keepers traveled to Russia, either), and only four defenders (Oswaldo Alanis, Jesús Gallardo, Hugo Ayala, Edson Alvarez), and one midfielder (Jonathan Dos Santos of LA Galaxy) are holdovers from the latest failed attempt to make el Quinto Partido on the world’s biggest stage.
Aside from Dos Santos, the most recognizable name for USA fans is likely 20-year old American Jonathan Gonzalez (though I can’t imagine why anyone would have heard of him), who did not make the World Cup squad for Mexico.
Like the United States, this is a reasonably young squad, though the presence of dudes in or approaching their 30s (basically restate all the guys listed above as World Cup holdovers) makes it a bit more of a transitional group than an American side that includes just two players older than 25. When you make the World Cup, you have the opportunity to blend in young and old without the pressure to throw out the baby with the bathwater, I guess.
Like the Americans, Mexico is operating under an interim manager after Juan Carlos Osorio left (he was ultimately hired by Paraguay). In his last go-round as interim, Ricardo Ferretti – whose day job is Tigres in Liga MX – went 2-0-2 at the helm, drawing friendlies against Trinidad and Argentina while beating the USMNT in the Concacaf Cup (Confederations Cup playoff), and Panama in a final friendly.
My personal opinion is as follows: getting trashed by Brazil was not fun. #HotTake
However, there’s also an element of “well, it’s Brazil,” which is only amplified by the fact that they called in something a heck of a lot closer to an A-team than did US interim manager Dave Sarachan. The downside? Still have that non-A-team, minus one of the few surefire A-team starters that was on Friday’s roster in John Brooks, and another guy who at least started that game in Pau Arriola. Since those guys are back with their clubs, we’re even a little further removed from A-team status.
That said, plenty of the guys on this team who aren’t considered First XI locks right now are on pace to be there when meaningful games resume (at least in the form of World Cup qualifiers), including some who are pretty close to top billing right now, like Tim Weah, Weston McKennie, and Matt Miazga.
The question then becomes how Dave Sarachan approaches this game. One would hope he runs out the best lineup available with the talent that remains in camp. Or I will be very upset. Let’s do it.
Assuming the same 4-1-4-1 that we’ve seen under Sarachan, here’s a guess/hope for close to the Best XI players available:
The only changes from Friday are Weah for Arriola and Carter-Vickers for Brooks. I wasn’t enamored with the Trapp/McKennie/Adams central midfield (a lot of overlap in skillsets there), but think Sarachan probably liked it. You could just as easily put Kellyn Acosta in one of those roles.
Depending on game flow and desire to win a friendly, Andrija Novakovich for Wood, Acosta, Marky Delgado, and Christian Roldan for some combination of the midfielders, Shaq Moore for Yedlin, and Alex Bono for Steffen (half) are my most likely six subs.
Dos a cero. That is all.
(Maybe more a hope than a prediction, but let’s get it, y’all).