Despite just finishing a decade long unbeaten streak on American soil to Mexico just weeks ago, it's hard to fathom that Uncle Sam's Army has never triumphed at the Mexican Cathedral of soccer, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. A nasty combination of high altitude, near deadly smog, and about a million screaming fans form the biggest home field advantage in the world, so it's no wonder than only once has the US escaped Mexico with at least a draw.
Bob Bradley is sending the big boys down to Mexico City this time around, a far cry from the MLS-based side that lost to Mexico 5-0 in last month's Gold Cup Final. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and phenom Jozy Altidore will lead the attack on Wednesday, while Carlos Bocanegra and newly signed A.C Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu will bolster the back.
It will be the first time since the dramatic loss to Brazil in June's Confederation Cup, that the top flight American squad will do battle, and clearly, they're the group that needs to be sent.
“We are excited about the challenge and the opportunity,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who guided the U.S. to a second-place finish in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. “Mexico is a very good team, and we are all aware of their great success playing in Mexico City. Every game in qualifying is important, and this is a chance to gain further ground in the group. Our team continually tries to raise the bar, and certainly the chance to win for the first time in Mexico is a welcome opportunity.”
While Mexico thrashed a team of unknowns in July, that game should have little, if any, carry over. The US comes into the match atop the table in the CONCACAF Qualification well on their way to punching their ticket to South Africa. Mexico on the other hand comes in struggling in the group stage, and is clinging to the 4th place playoff spot by just a point over El Salvador, while being a point behind Honduras for the automatic bid to South Africa that the third place spot ensures.
Regardless, this is still a huge game for the Americans. Sure, they showed up big in June's FIFA tournament, but the elephant in the room is the winless record south of the border. If Bradley can get the boys to put up a charismatic performance like they did against Egypt, Spain and the first half against Brazil, it will be huge. Even coming away with just a draw would go a long way in preparing for next year's World Cup, allow for some stepping forward as a soccer nation, and possibly putting a big dent in Mexico's hopes of going to South Africa.
I'd really like to see Altidore and Dempsey set the tone of the attack and go right at Mexico like did with Spain and Brazil. If they can come out early showing that they're not intimidated of the atmosphere and the hype of playing in Azteca, they could have a helluva chance. Without a doubt this is the most talented American team we've ever seen, now seems like a great time to get the win.