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USMNT vets looking to guide youngsters through Mexico clash

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

For members of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Mexico is a whole different ballgame. Matches are intense and physical, boasting a new level of meanness unseen against other CONCACAF foes. It’s a unique experience, one hard to comprehend for those that haven’t experienced it first-hand.

With Friday’s clash looming, just 11 of the 26 players on the USMNT roster have faced the event that is a clash with El Tri. The other 15, a mix of international newcomers and veterans, have yet to taste the experience that comes with facing the team’s biggest rivals. The message to those 15? Don’t let up for a single moment.

“They need to realize how big this game is, that we are playing such a big rival and that there is so much history,” said Omar Gonzalez, who has faced El Tri at both Friday’s venue, MAPFRE Stadium, and the famed Azteca. “Columbus is and has been such a big part of that history. It’s important, from the moment you get here, to take it seriously. This is big for us, big for our fanbase and big for our future. A win here could put us on the right foot through qualifying. They really need to think about what this game entails and what it means for us and to take that seriously and enjoy the moment.

“Every single play matters,” added Matt Besler. “Whether it’s a throw-in or a goal kick or a corner kick, every single play matters. You have to be tuned in at all times and you have to give everything you possibly have for every second of the match.”

Besler admits that he was a bit naive in his first clash with El Tri, a historic 0-0 draw at the Azteca back in 2013. The Sporting KC defender says that naivety worked out in his favor, as he was too blind to realize exactly what he was jumping into.

Of the current group, just nine players have experienced a USMNT-Mexico clash in Columbus. Just one, Michael Bradley, has scored more than one goal against El Tri, while Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, Michael Orozco and Bobby Wood have each contributed a finish against Mexico at some point in their career.

Lynden Gooch, one of the 11 newcomers to the rivalry, remembers Bradley’s finishes well. The now-20-year-old Sunderland playmaker remembers coming home from school on Feb. 11, 2009 to watch Bradley bag a brace, earning the USMNT another memorable Dos a Cero win in Columbus.

Now, nearly eight years later, Gooch joins a group of young Americans set for an introduction. After making his USMNT debut in October friendlies, the Sunderland midfielder was just hoping to make enough of an impression to earn a spot on the roster heading into what should be a memorable event.

“Without a doubt, this is the biggest game as an American, playing against Mexico whether it’s home or away,” Gooch said. “Being involved in that and being able to play would be a great honor.

“We know the crowd is going to be on our side. They’ll be our 12th man and it’s going to be rocking. Obviously it’s an intense rivalry. There’s a big three points at stake and bragging rights as well.”

Both Besler and Gonzalez said the tone has already been set just one day into camp. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann took his squad aside and stressed just how intense this week was going to be. There’s no room for error, not against El Tri.

With that in mind, it’s up to the team’s veterans, players like Besler and Gonzalez, to help prepare the newer faces. Friday’s match is a monumental one, especially so early in the Hexagonal, and the U.S. is looking to begin World Cup qualifying on the right foot by first toppling the team’s most hated rivals.

“Of course, this game always has that sense that the United States never wants to lose to Mexico and Mexico never wants to lose to the United States,” Gonzalez said. “Those feelings are felt in both sides; and that’s how it is.

“On Friday, there will be two very good teams, both with a lot of confidence. It’s going to be a great game. We need to get there focused for the war that this game is, and be ready.”



  1. It is an exciting game, so youngsters should have their eyes wide open and ears taking in every little piece of advice offered. I don’t entirely agree with the roster, but its a good mix of vets and youngsters.


    • Excellent selection and placement Guy with the exception of Altidore up top. I think for a team like Mexico (that has star power up top) we need quality….really good quality up top, that would take full advantage of the few chances we will get in front of goal. From you line-up:







      the “X” factor will be the spots I left vacant. We came battle with no TRUE LB. Johnson is more lethal at LM (but Klinsmann will waste him at LB, and squeeze Bedoya at LM which isn’t his natural position (Nantes- RM, CAM and UNION – RDM). Yet we left a selection of LBs off the roster and going to play a poor soul out of position

      Robbie Rogers
      Taylor Kemp
      Ryan Hollingshead
      Justin Morrow
      Jorge Villafaña

      I really want to see who Klinsy starts and how we match up against Mexico

    • Chandler and Yedlin have both been playing well. So wtsrting them both will allow us to push Johnson out wide. Giving us width and creativity with him and Pulisic on the wings. Jozy needs to start. He’s playing well and he’s a big body. We need to be very physical with them.

    • Does anyone have eyes in camp? I think Bedoya v. Klejstan in practice and lineup is going to be super interesting… and I think depending on whether JK thinks he gets more by playing both of them vs. what he gets by playing both of Chandler and FJ… we will have our lineup.


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