The United States Men’s National Team head to Estadio Azteca tomorrow night to take on Mexico in a pivotal World Cup qualifying match. Entering the final window of World Cup qualifying, both teams still have some ground to cover in order to secure one of the 3 spots from Concacaf in the 2022 World Cup. The current standings as we enter Matchday 12:
The USMNT enter with several key players out due to injury, and will seek to win a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca for the first time ever. Mexico, currently level with the USMNT on points in the Octagonal, wants to show that they are still the dominant team in this rivalry, and there’s more pressure for them to prove it after a 2021 that saw the USMNT defeat El Tri 3 times.
The USMNT need a combination of 6 points won or lost by Panama and Costa Rica to secure a World Cup spot. That will mean that a result in Mexico will be super important for the U.S. in order to close in on qualification.
W (3-0) - Honduras - World Cup Qualifying
L (0-2) - Canada - World Cup Qualifying
W (1-0) - El Salvador - World Cup Qualifying
W (1-0) - Bosnia & Herzegovina - Friendly
D (1-1) - Jamaica - World Cup Qualifying
W (1-0) - Panama - World Cup Qualifying
D (0-0) - Costa Rica - World Cup Qualifying
W (2-1) - Jamaica - World Cup Qualifying
D (2-2) - Chile - Friendly
L (1-2) - Canada - World Cup Qualifying
What To Watch For
Overcome the injuries. The USMNT have a ton of key injuries to players, including Sergiño Dest, Matt Turner, Weston McKennie, and Brenden Aaronson. For the rest of the guys on the roster, they’re going to have to step up to overcome those missing players. They’re capable of doing it, but they need to recognize the importance of the match and come out firing.
Keep guys fresh. Estadio Azteca sits at about 7800 feet above sea level, which will cause guys to get gassed early. Gregg Berhalter needs to make sure subs are ready to go so that the energy level on the field stays high.
Take shots and put pressure on the defense. The more the ball is down on the attacking end for the United States, the higher the pressure is for Mexico. In front of their fans who are unforgiving when El Tri doesn’t play well, the momentum can shift by keep Mexico on their heels.
With so many injuries, there’s a big question on who will step in to fill the role of guys that have been dependable throughout qualifying. With the opportunity to steal points and bring the USMNT that much closer to qualification, here’s what Gregg Berhalter will likely present as his starting XI:
Zack Steffen will get the start at goal, while the back line has Antonee Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, and DeAndre Yedlin in place of Dest. The midfield will have a new look to it, as Tyler Adams occupies his defensive midfield position and is joined by Kellyn Acosta and Gio Reyna. Luca de la Torre or Yunus Musah could also be in this midfield if Berhalter wants to go about it differently, but in the end, he starts by putting Reyna on the field.
Up front, Christian Pulisic will be on the left wing, with Tim Weah on the right wing to give some added creativity and next level attacking. In the middle, Ricardo Pepi gets the start in the hopes he can find the magic he had last fall in matches against Honduras and Jamaica.
It’s hard to predict this match, because the USMNT has played so well lately against Mexico. However, they’ve never won a World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca, despite taking points in the last 2 cycles. It’s an even game, with the final score being 1-1. The USMNT ends what could be its final World Cup qualifying trip to the Azteca by bringing a point home to Orlando.