Once Again, It’s On: US, Mexico Set to Battle in Columbus

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: February 10, 2009

MIAMI — The final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying begins tonight with six teams trying to punch one of three or perhaps four tickets to the biggest dance of them all: the 2010 World Cup.

But c’mon.

With all due respect to Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago, El Salvador and Costa Rica, just about everyone will be casting an eye towards Columbus Crew Stadium where the the United States and Mexico will square off and renew their simmering futbol border war. (ESPN2, 7pm EST)

It will be the 56th time the two sides have met and while the Mexico owns the overall edge in the series with 30 wins to the US’ 14, the Americans have dominated this decade with nine wins, two losses and a draw last year.

US SoccerThe US comes into the match on the heels of a 3-2 exhibition win over Sweden on January 21 at the Home Depot Center. The match was a coming out of sorts for talented midfielder Sacha Klestan who’s hat trick marked his first goals for the US.

However the US does have some question marks coming into tonight’s match. Dependable right back Steve Cherundolo is injured and unavailable. The left back position has yet to be definitively claimed with Heath Pearce probably getting the nod.

The forward position remains far from settled. Jozy Altidore scored against Mexico in his first start last year but has seen limited minutes with his club team Villareal and has been loaned out to second division Xerez (SPARTAAAAA, sorry).

Brian Ching played last month against Sweden but before tht hadn’t played a meaningful match since the MLS season ended back in October, as is the case with midfielder Ricardo Clark and defender Marvell Wynne, II.

However the US has a veteran squad coming into this match and at the top of that list is the scourge of Mexican soccer, Landon Donovan. The All-Time leading scorer for the US, LD has been on loan from the LA Galaxy with legendary German club Bayern Munich has been playing well.

Tim Howard has been in excellent form for both club (Everton FC, England) and country as has Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC, England). Even DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), who hasn’t seen much playing time, showed his worth in a recent match by scoring in an exhibition against AC Milan and has proven himself in this rivalry, scoring the goal that clinching goal in this corresponding match four years ago.

The US will also benefit from having Jose Fransisco Torres who plays for Pachuca in the Mexican First Division.

Moreover, the US has owned Mexico at home.

They’ve not lost a match to Mexico in the United States since 1999 and is 2-0 in World Cup qualifiers against Mexico in Columbus. With a confident squad and a home crowd that will be solidly behind the US, the Stars and Stripes will be tough to beat.

But neither they, nor any sensible US fan is overlooking El Tri. Mexico has a proud tradition, a competitive league that’s in season, skillful players who are supremely motivated and believe that they are due to win a match in the US.

The attacking player that the US must account for is Nery Castillo who enjoyed an excellent Gold Cup and ensuing Copa America in 2007. Omar Bravo is another attacking option that could make life difficult for the US’ back line. Everybody’s favorite Mexican villian Rafael Marquez remains the team’s leader, a confident and accomplished defender with FC Barcelona in Spain along with Pavel Pardo, a long time stalwart in the Mexican midfield currently plying his trade with Club America after spells in Germany. Young star Giovanni Dos Santos will be itching to make his mark in this simmering rivalry as well.

However, Mexico comes into this match with more question marks than previous occasions. El Tri lost to the same Swedish side the US beat, 1-0 in front of pro-Mexico crowd in Oakland and coach Sven Goran Erikkson has found himself squarely on the hot seat after Mexico failed to impress in its final few games of the semifinal round. Mexico also will miss Andres Guardado who abused the US in a 2007 friendly and the Gold Cup final of that year.

Moreover, Mexico has been running off at the mouth as of late which is what they always do before losing. It seems as if they are trying to talk themselves into a winning frame of mind by suggesting that the US is overrated as Antonio Naelson did recently or declaring themselves as “much better” courtesy of Carlos Ochoa.

Some journalists have even gotten into the fray complaining that the US only scores against Mexico off of set pieces apparently forgetting that BOTH of the Johnny Maglion’s goals for Mexico last year were off set pieces while Jozy Altidore scored on a header during open play as were both goals in the 2002 Round of 16 victory by the US over Mexico. Check your facts, Sr. Tristan of Goal.com.

What’s even more telling is that Mexican fans are buying up fake US voodoo dolls that are on sale at Blockbuster stores in hopes of turning the tide for their side. Way to get behind your team.

The fact remains that this match up is one that fans on both sides of the Rio Grande have been waiting for. I’ve been fired up for this for about a week. It’s simply must see TV for any American soccer fan and I think only that cat on You Tube that calls himself the Shogun Emperor AKA Coyote Hitchcock is looking forward this game more than I am.

So put the kids to bed early, break out any red jersey you may have and get ready for another battle in one of the most intense rivalries in international football.

Once again, it’s on….



Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes/France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA/MLS), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland/Denmark), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew/MLS), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liège/Belgium), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock/Germany), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC/MLS)

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers/Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Germany), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo/MLS), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA/MLS), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew/MLS), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca/Mexico)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Xerez/Spain), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo/MLS), Charlie Davies (Hammarby/Sweden), Clint Dempsey (Fulham/England), Landon Donovan (Bayern Munich/Germany)


Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jose de Jesus Corona (Tecos)

Defenders: Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart, Germany), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona, Spain), Aaron Galindo (Guadalajara), Leobardo Lopez (Pachuca)

Midfielders: Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul), Pavel Pardo (America), Leandro Augusto (Pumas), Luis Perez (Monterrey), Israel Martinez (San Luis), Antonio Naelson ( Toluca)

Forwards: Alberto Medina (Guadalajara), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham, England), Matias Vuoso (Santos), Carlos Ochoa (Guadalajara), Nery Castillo (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal, Spain), Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruna, Spain)