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U.S. Men's National Team

USMNT attempts to conquer Azteca

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Photo by ISIphotos.com 

It is the U.S. men's national team's house of horrors, one of the more daunting places to play around the world. And it looms Wednesday night. 

The U.S. men's national team has never won at the storied Estadio Azteca, and despite bringing a less-than-full-strength squad to Mexico City for Wednesday night's friendly against El Tri, the challenge remains the same: Finally put a "1" in the "W" part of the W-L-T column that current reads 0-8-1 all-time at Azteca, 0-19-1 all-time in Mexico City and 0-23-1 all-time on Mexican soil.

“We’re all aware of that. It’s something we get excited for," Maurice Edu told USSoccer.com. "It’s going to be a crazy environment. It’s one of the biggest games for us, and we use that as our own personal motivation. If we get a win here, it’s a big deal for us, and that’s what we’re all looking to do on Wednesday night.”

Edu, who could be given his first run out at centerback since an October, 2010, friendly against Poland, is one of the many Americans on the roster who has yet to experience playing at the 105,000-seat venue, where the home supporters are as ferocious as the opposition. In fact, the only players from the last meeting at Azteca, a World Cup qualifier in 2009, to be included on the current roster are Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.

“Any time that we play in Azteca, it’s pretty raucous, but I think that it will be a pretty exciting night," said Donovan, who has scored five goals in 14 career games against El Tri but none on Mexican soil. 

The overall unfamiliarity with the venue is just another factor that is necessary for the U.S. men to take into account, especially across the back line. Geoff Cameron has had a whirlwind month after his transfer saga to join Stoke City finally got completed, and he'll add this to his plate as one of the expected starters. 

“The feel and the pressure of the crowd on top of you. It’s loud and it’s hard to hear each other on the field and that’s one thing we’re going to have to deal with," Cameron said. "We’ve got a bunch of new guys, so there’s going to be a lot of communication that we’re going to have to deal with.”

The U.S. men have yet to face Mexico since left back Fabian Johnson, who is tasked with trying to shut down the likes of Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado, was integrated into the national team, and all he has to use as a reference point are stories from teammates.

“In Germany there are just a few stadiums that are close to this big," Johnson said. "In Dortmund, there is a stadium that holds 80,000. I think Jurgen said this one holds about 110,000. That’s crazy. I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that. I’m happy to be here and not a lot of players get to play in front of this big of a crowd.”

If there is another voice of experience that can lend a hand on how to attempt to combat the sea of green in the crowd, it is U.S. assistant coach Martin Vasquez, who entered as a late substitute in the 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw at Azteca in November, 1997, the only game the U.S. men have not lost at the arena.

Another player who can speak from experience is DaMarcus Beasley, who is closing in on the hallowed 100-cap mark for his career. The 30-year-old Beasley played for the U.S. national team at Azteca in 2005, a 2-1 loss and one of just four games there that the U.S. managed to score a goal.

"The guys are ready, and they know what’s at stake," Beasley said. "They know it’s Mexico; they know it’s Azteca. That’s all the motivation they need to put on a good performance on Wednesday.”

96 comments
  • PD

    Maybe not 100% percent relevant, but just read this over on US Soccer:

    “What Mexico read well is that how the global game has evolved over the last couple years… that they need to have a style and have a player that buys into it 100 percent and works as hard as he can. Based on those elements and their preferred system, they automized sequences and where and how the players moved and they’ve doubled and tripled their position… (players). Certain players that are normally on the team aren’t there, but the players that are there play exactly the same roles. I think they have matched what was going on globally. If you want to be in the top 10 in the world, you have to adjust to this type of style.” JK

    I think that this is a quote to remember as we continue into qualifying. Until we’re meeting these criteria, any major result can be attributed as much to exceptional individuals and luck as to having a strong national program. This is why we’ll see a 3-3-4 for a long stretches of the game tomorrow, (even though we’re still currently better suited to 4-4-2) this is why Chandler is still in the mix, and this is why it’s good to see new faces, even in a lion’s den like Estadia Azteca. When you think about this quote as being JK’s mantra, a lot of his choices since taking over make perfect sense.

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  • RLW2020

    agreed, the overall goal of this game is to acclimate some of these new guys to the Azteca. it may or may not be pretty but it will be invaluable for next year’s encounter.

    if they win, go crazy! if they lose klinnsy should be better prepared next time. Don’t forget this is his first trip there too!

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  • RLW2020

    if they grew up there or play club ball there they do. Thats one of the huge advantages to the Mexican team; most of them play in the Liga MX and in cities near the DF. The familiarity to the stadium and themselves is something the US has never had, anywhere in the USA.

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  • fortunate only

    It’s always beer. Except for those demented idiots who don’t mind peeing into cups or bags and throwing them.

    Try going to a Santos Laguna game and look around you when the home team scores.

    Beer showers everywhere.

    I don’t agree with chucking your ten dollar beer in the air but hey, everyone does what they want.

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  • Peretz48

    I’m looking for a 4-0 or 5-1 scoreline. If we can hold the score below this I’ll considerate it an accomplishment.

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  • Good Jeremy's overbearing wife

    summer vacation in Afghanistan is good for the kids discipline though dear

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  • Benny

    Pretty interesting note:
    In that 0-0 draw in 1997 WC qualifying match in Azteca, the U.S. was reduced to 10 men when Jeff Agoos was shown a red in the 32nd minute for elbowing Mexico’s Pavel Pardo. The USA also was without four regular starters in goalkeeper Kasey Keller (thumb) and midfielders Claudio Reyna (suspension), Tab Ramos (ACL) and Earnie Stewart (calf).

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  • D. Beas

    I was in Pasadena for the Gold Cup final, wearing full U.S. garb and a large American flag (I was the 1%). The Mexico fans were polite and I no problems inside or outside of the stadium. I do hate the goal kick chant. You should be able to take your kids to a game and not have to listen to that crap.

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  • GW

    Broken thumb. Not sure but the backups in those days were either Juergen Sommer or Friedel. I’d bet on it being Friedel.

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  • Eric

    I was also at the Gold Cup final in full USA apparel. I didn’t have any problems, either.

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  • ben in el cajon

    So was I. There were groups of friends wearing both colors sitting together, and a man next to us had both a Mexico shirt and a US flag and cheered every goal. When we left, gutted, two Mexico supporters gave us sympathy and I congratulated them.

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  • Eddie Vedder

    I like the move by Klinsi to play at Azteca… the loss will toughen up the lads prior to qualifying.

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  • Eddie Vedder

    I;d go during qualifying.. That last game is high on my list of matches attended

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  • GW

    I don’t think we will lose.

    JK managed to inject some interest into what might otherwise have been a boring Olympic champions appreciation match ( remember our own World Cup thank you game in 2010? What a drag) into an interesting game.

    I’m hopeful it will be a wild shootout, like maybe 4-3 US on top.

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  • Eddie Vedder

    You’re high.. I’ll eat my shoes if the US can manage a tie.. Epic fail by Mexico if they don’t blow the lid off the thing..

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  • Dennis

    I have been to 3 USA Mexico games, as well as games against Colombia, Elsalvadore, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras. At the Mexico game in Pasedena, Sam’s Army was a fledgling group that was absolutely dwarfed by the Mexican contingent and it was pretty intimidating. At Chicago, and the Meadowlands, US fans were outnumbered. I was not in the Sam’ section for either of those games. After the Chicago game, I was hit in the head by something thrown from the balcony above, but since I was more or less surrounded by Mexican supporters, I have no clue who threw it. At the Meadowlands, we pretty much left to a stadium of celebrating Mexican fans. Compared to a Giants game, nothing special in terms of violence.

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  • Yank fan

    Dude I couldn’t agree with you more concerning fans for Honduras. They are passionate but they don’t act like hooligans. I think they set a good example for all soccer supporters.

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  • JW

    It will be good to see who performs well in the back – Mexico will press high for 90m at high altitude; a good defensive performance here will merit additional callups during qualifying.

    I really want to see a 4-3-2-1 or 4-1-4-1 trotted out here to clog up the Mexican distribution to the wings from the center, with the DM assisting the wingbacks or slotting into CB when a natural CB goes to assist. Mexico is most vulnerable to, and we are good at, fast breaks; playing a little deeper will open up the requisite space while applying more pressure to the dangerous Mexican wings.

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  • biff

    High or not, he is right that there is a surprisingly strong buzz around this game and I think a lot of that is coming from a roster that is missing –count ‘em– six normal starters: Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Clarence Goodson. And seven if you count Timothy “Benedict Arnold” Chandler, who isn’t glued to his phone as he waits for a phone call from Jogi Low.

    The big question is—–Is this the first step of a big break from the past? Klinsmann, in his comments on the Sunday teleconference, was his normal vague self about some of the absences. But an article in a Scottish paper claims Bocanegra was “axed” for the game by Klinsmann, which I have a hard time believing.
    
    Rangers duo dumped by their national sides
    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/carlos-bocanegra-and-dorin-goian-have-been-1260038

    And a story Tuesday on a Web site that I don’t think is allowed to be linked on SBI quotes Klinsmann saying he intentionally left some of the regular starters in Europe so he can assess other players, sort of contradicting his Sunday teleconference statements indicating the regular starters were not fit: Klinsmann was quoted as saying: “Tomorrow we get a lot of answers in terms of a lot players…and that’s why I told a lot of established players to stay behind in Europe, cause I wanted to see other players.”

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  • Good Jeremy

    Bob Bradley is that you?
    Didn’t one very poor game in Mexico despite generally overachieving by playing to the limits of your talent pool when compared to your opponents as you just described get you ran out of town?

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  • biff

    Is that you, Bob Bradley? Accusing JW of being you? Some people think you underachieved by not playing to the limits of your talent pool and that if you had started Maurice Edu instead of Ricardo Clarke in the Ghana match in WC 2010 we would have won and advanced to the quarter-finals, and that if you had not subbed in Jonathan Bornstein last summer iin the Gold Cup Final and also would have utilized Maurice Edu we would have gone on to win that game after going up 2-0 instead of losing 2-4 loss. Just saying.

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  • Benny

    I do know that Dooley hit the post.Google youtube: USA vs Mexico 1997 WC qualifying and you can watch a short clip of the game.

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  • Marco

    I love how the Raiders fan was trashing Mexican fans… it made me laugh when I thought back to that huge dust-up in the parking lot of a PRESEASON NFL game last year, where Raiders fans and Niners fans were in huge brawls that the cops had to break up, you know, once the dozens of guys taping the fight on their phones used their phones to actually call the cops. But boy, those mexican fans are trashy for throwing stuff that isn’t a punch.

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  • Rory

    Is that you, Jurgen klinsmen accusing someone of being Bob Bradley accusing someone else of accusing someone of being Bob Bradley to take away from the fact that you… uh, wait, wait, I can do this. Accusing them to take away from the fact that you have a… yeah, Uhm.

    Actually, I think I am Bob Bradley. So I’m just gonna walk away now.

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  • JW

    Wha? I’m just dropping some Sun Tzu here. I’ve surveyed the lay (high altitude), the opponent (Mex), and my army (USA!)… this is a good strategy for that. The Klinsmann-preferred approach is better against different opponents… I would be quite upset if we deployed a 4-3-2-1 against JAM. Bob Bradley would have likely used a 4-2-2-2 here, btw, and there’s merit to that, but with Mex I would prefer to close down the wings instead of shielding the CBs.

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  • biff

    Eddie, chill bro’. haven’t you heard of Klinsmann’s innovative game plan. He is going to have our (Super) Heros strap bottled oxygen to their backs and wear face masks and we gonna kick some you know what. yeah, I’m fired up for this one, hoping for a miracle…but will understand if we fall a few goals short of a miracle.

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  • yank

    As mad/sad as I am that we don’t have our full squad, I’m getting more and more excited about the game regardless. I can’t help it, gonna be a slow day here at work!

    GO USA!!!

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  • steve-0

    What’s funny is I can see us losing 4-0 but at the same time, I can also see us winning 1-0 with Wondo/Gordon stealing it at the very end as they’ve done this many times before.

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  • Rgodinez22

    Altitude affects the player as much as it affects the ball: thinner air not only causes shortness of breath and faster fatigue but the ball goes higher or floats longer. (something the Mexican players would be more accustom to even if they don’t play in the Liga MX anymore because they were born there)

    Plus its not just the altitude and its effects but the 100,000+ fans and the hostile(I don’t mean aggressive) environment they hold the US player to.

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  • bryan

    honestly, if Boca is going to stay at Rangers, than “thanks for your time!” we don’t need to see Boca if he is staying in the 4th division of the scottish league. there is no point, he won’t play for the US again unless there are injuries or something. but, at the same time, maybe JK knew Boca was in talks with another club and left him behind to work it out.

    either way, i don’t know. i love Boca, but if he would rather be faithful to Rangers than continue playing at a high level, i thank him for his time with the US and move on. which is really hard to say. but frankly, i’ll be livid if he stays with Rangers.

    Like

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