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USA vs. Mexico, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Mexico

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The two continental titans face off once again.

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Mexico v Honduras - Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team continues to fight through the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, currently at second place in the CONCACAF table. The next opponent was circled on the schedule well in advance, another Mexico fixture that is sure to provide all the expected thrills and drama. The two nations renew the rivalry at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second international match hosted by the recently opened venue.

Mexico is managed by Gerardo “Tata” Martino, an experienced journeyman with stops at Paraguay, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, Argentina, and Atlanta United. Appointed to the role in January of 2019, the 58-year-old has compiled an impressive 33-5-5 record. Despite some criticism over the summer after losing in the finals of the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, he has his team on pace to easily reach the World Cup.

El Tri is undefeated in qualifying with a 4-0-2 record, topping the group. The last international window opened with a 1-1 draw with Canada, followed by wins over Honduras and El Salvador, 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. A recent friendly against Ecuador – played on a non-FIFA date, featuring a definitive second-choice group – ended in a 3-2 loss. The sour taste of the underwhelming summer is gone, washed away by success in more meaningful competition, where Mexico always seems to get the job done.

Martino named a 26-player roster for the matches against the United States and Canada. The roster features 18 call-ups from Liga MX. Notable names such as Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez, Julian Araujo, and David Ochoa are not included.

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GOALKEEPERS (3): Guillermo Ochoa (América), Alfredo Talavera (UNAM), Rodolfo Cota (León)

DEFENDERS (9): Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Luis Rodríguez (UANL), Julio César Domínguez (Cruz Azul), Jorge Sánchez (América), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León), Johan Vásquez (Genoa), Gilberto Sepúlveda (Guadalajara)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Andrés Guardado (Betis), Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Edson Álvarez (Ajax), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Sebastián Córdova (América), Jesús Ricardo Angulo (Guadalajara)

FORWARDS (5): Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jesús Corona (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Henry Martín (América), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

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Martino utilizes an attacking 4-3-3 formation with inverted wingers and dynamic fullbacks. The build-up is primarily through the wide areas, resulting in a centering pass, direct through ball, or quick shot after cutting inside. When maintaining possession, the ball is methodically cycled by the back line until a vertical one-two combination can be opened. Frequent decoy runs and dummies are also used to pull the opponent out of position and create space.

The USMNT has struggled recently with defending crosses, particularly those played in transition. The back line is in an ongoing state of flux, compounded by John Brooks not being included in this camp. Impeding Mexico’s progress partially falls on the shoulders of Tyler Adams, but the run of play may generally avoid the rangy midfielder’s significant purview.

Projected Mexico Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)

At 36 years of age, Guillermo Ochoa remains the starter for Mexico, adding to his 120 caps. Now at Club América, he provides experience and a sense of stability, never rattled or bothered by high pressure situations. While no longer as explosive, his shot-stopping and ability to control the box make him one of the world’s most complete goalkeepers.

Monterrey’s lockdown center back, César Montes, was removed from the roster due to an injury. Regular starter Néstor Araujo is suspended after earning two yellow cards against El Salvador. Mexico should be fine, as long as Héctor Moreno’s “muscle discomfort” remains a minor issue. The left-footed 33-year-old is a sharp passer and harrying defender, even finding the first goal in the previous fixture. His partner will be either Gilberto Sepúlveda of Chivas or Genoa’s Johan Vásquez, neither of whom possess much international experience. The latter appears to have gained Martino’s favor following a strong performance at the Tokyo Olympics and securing regular minutes in Serie A.

Jesús Gallardo is the current first-choice left back, harboring the attacking instincts to overlap as the wingers cut inside. He is a flashy one-on-one dribbler and pushes deep into the final third. On the other side of the formation is Jorge Sánchez of América, who times his tackles incredibly well and is a decent crosser. While not as dangerous as his partner, the 23-year-old forces unexpected turnovers which spark counter-attacks. Veterans Julio César Domínguez and Luis Rodríguez could also feature if Martino prefers a more experienced player.

At defensive midfielder, Edson Álvarez dictates proceedings for Mexico and will, at times, drop back to serve as a third center back. Whether cycling possession, swarming possessing lanes, or halting a dribbler dead in his tracks, the 24-year-old is constantly on patrol. He recently extended his contract with Ajax after a breakout year that saw the Dutch super club claim a league and cup double.

El Tri is loaded at the central midfield position with plenty of talent available. Despite Martino appearing to pull back from Andrés Guardado, he started against Canada. A match with the USMNT may beckon for the veteran playmaker’s presence and ability to cycle the ball to the wings. His constant partner, Héctor Herrera, remains a favorite of the manager. The 31-year-old box-to-box still pushes the tempo at Atlético Madrid, arguably playing as a quasi-ten at the international level. As an alternative option, versatile Luis Romo emerged over the past year, known in Liga MX for hitting the most audacious of accurate long passes and field switches.

Napoli’s Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is one of the most dynamic players in CONCACAF. The inverted winger charges into the final third and frequently beats defenders off the dribble. On the other side, Jesús Corona is similarly strong with the ball and pulling away opponents to open up space. He can cross from the wing and will also cut inside.

Raúl Jiménez made a triumphant return to the national team last window after overcoming a horrifying skull fracture. The target striker played in all three matches, scoring a 90th minute insurance goal in the 2-0 victory over El Salvador. The 30-year-old is a handful and a problem, possessing the size and speed to punish opposing back lines. Whether in hold-up play or transition, he is going to wreak havoc and influence proceedings.

The summer is long over, the triumphant Nations League and Gold Cup results irrelevant to World Cup qualification. This is a refocused and experienced Mexico that should be favored to claim all three points over an inconsistent USMNT, only weakened by some unforeseen issues at center back. The match promises to be an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that is unlikely to end in a scoreless draw or shutout.

The match is scheduled for Friday, November 12th at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, 6:10 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, and Univision USA, and Fubo TV (free trial).