The U.S. Men’s National Team’s rivalry with Mexico isn’t one that has to be explained. There’s a mutual disdain between the two teams as the two sides continuously jockey for the title of CONCACAF’s alpha dog.
On Friday, the two meet again in a match that could go a long way towards helping either side march towards the 2018 World Cup.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome, both the U.S. and Mexico expect to take the field in Russia in the summer of 2018. Both sides are supremely talented when it comes to CONCACAF play, making the two favorites to finish atop the Hexagonal round. However, the winner of Friday’s match will be given a massive boost for the start of the current round, as the two attempt to push up the table early to assert their dominance.
Quite simply, the U.S. will never take Mexico lightly, especially in a World Cup qualifier. Jurgen Klinsmann will be prepared to utilize all of the weapons in his arsenal, as the U.S. looks to start the Hex on the right foot within the friendly combines of Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium.
Here’s a look at a potential USMNT starting XI we could see against Mexico:
Heading into Friday, there are three guaranteed starters. We know Tim Howard will be in the starting lineup because Jurgen Klinsmann said so. We know Michael Bradley will be in the starting lineup because he’s the captain and remains a vital playmaker and shield for the backline. Finally, we know Jozy Altidore will be in the starting lineup because he’s scoring boatloads of goals. Those three are done and dusted.
From there, everything is somewhat up in the air, even if some places are more secure than others. Christian Pulisic is a near certainty to earn the nod as he continues his ascendancy on the international stage, while John Brooks should start at centerback, even in the absence of Geoff Cameron.
Replacing Cameron is the biggest decision facing Klinsmann heading into Friday’s match. Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez have both proven sturdy options against Mexico in the past, while Steve Birnbaum has appeared to move higher on Klinsmann’s depth chart throughout the year. Klinsmann may be wary of starting two bigger centerbacks like Brooks and Gonzalez, but the latter’s familiarity with the Liga MX contingent of El Tri make him the best option for the day.
The fullbacks alongside of them will also be vital. Given Cameron’s absence, Yedlin should be penciled in at right back, unless Klinsmann opts to push him up the field in favor of Timmy Chandler. Should Yedlin remain back to deal with Mexico’s talented wingers, Alejandro Bedoya provides a welcome presence on the right wing, one that could help defensively against Mexico’s 3-3-3-1 formation. Meanwhile, on the other side, Pulisic’s presence pushes Fabian Johnson back while giving the U.S. a very dangerous 1-2 combo on that side of the field.
Bradley will all but certainly operate the No. 6 position, likely leaving one spot open in the midfield. Jermaine Jones insists he is healthy and ready to go, and Klinsmann certainly sees him as a potential difference-maker. However, given the fact that he’s played just three matches since the Copa America, Jones likely remains a better bench option, opening the door for Sacha Kljestan to remain in the lineup.
The final question lies at the forward position. Does the U.S. shift to a 4-3-3 or remain with the now-familiar 4-4-2? Klinsmann should opt for the latter, including Bobby Wood despite his recent suspension from Bundesliga play.
Overall, Klinsmann is a Cameron away from fielding his strongest USMNT XI. He’ll need it, as the U.S. faces one of its most difficult tests to open the Hex in a Mexico team that boasts both talent and tactical variety.