It’s back. The United States Men’s National Team will face off against Mexico tomorrow at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. If you’re thinking it hasn’t been that long since the last time these two teams have played, you’re absolutely right. It was July 7th when the two teams last faced each other in the 2019 Gold Cup final, which was a 1-0 victory for El Tri. Less than 2 months later, the teams will square off again. In a not-so-friendly matchup, who will have the edge? Will some of the newer players make an impact? Tomorrow, the latest chapter in North America’s biggest rivalry is written.
L (0-1) - Mexico - Gold Cup Final
W (3-1) - Jamaica - Gold Cup Semifinals
W (1-0) - Curaçao - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W (1-0) - Panama - Gold Cup Group D
W (6-0) - Trinidad and Tobago - Gold Cup Group D
W (1-0) - United States - Gold Cup Final
W (1-0 AET) - Haiti - Gold Cup Semifinals
W (1(5)-1(4) AET) - Costa Rica - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W (3-2) - Martinique - Gold Cup Group A
W (3-1) - Canada - Gold Cup Group A
What to watch for
How will the defense hold? Against Mexico last time, the defense did a fairly decent job for the first 45 minutes of the match. In the second half, they wilted under the pressure of Mexico’s attackers, eventually allowing the Gold Cup-clinching goal. Will there be a new game plan to hold El Tri off the scoreboard?
Can the USMNT limit Mexico’s possession? It’s likely unrealistic to hope that the USMNT can hold possession longer than Mexico, but the Yanks can’t allow El Tri to have 70-80% possession. If the midfield can limit Mexico to having the ball only 50-55% of the time, that means more opportunities for the USMNT to move forward and try to score. You can bet that head coach Gregg Berhalter will want to do what it takes to keep the ball off the feet of Mexico’s attackers.
Is there a hero in this group? Who’s going to step up? Every USA-Mexico match needs a hero, someone that can rise up and seize the challenge and be the guy that fans remember when it’s all over. Will it be a veteran? Will it be a newcomer hoping to make an impact? Someone will need to take charge and lead this team.
Gregg Berhalter wants to develop a consistent lineup, but he also wants to evaluate some talent and determine if they can be counted on in a big time match. This is as big as it gets for a friendly. To that end, it’s expected that Berhalter opts for consistency with the lineup that he has used the most.
In goal, Zack Steffen is back, and Berhalter will likely stick with him. Tim Ream, Aaron Long, John Brooks, and Nick Lima make up the back line, with Lima operating in that hybrid right back to defensive midfielder role. It’s entirely possible we eventually see youngster Sergiño Dest, but it’s hard to imagine that he makes the starting lineup.
In the midfield, Alfredo Morales is the lone “newcomer” that gets a look in the starting lineup. He operates the defensive midfield role, leaving Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan free to roam and move the ball forward. Those three guys also seem to be the best three on the roster at holding possession as well, so it could be what Berhalter chooses to keep the ball away from Mexico.
Up front, expect Christian Pulisic to play on the right, but he will also operate space in the middle as a center attack mid at times. Tyler Boyd is back in the lineup and will patrol the left. He will have the challenge of covering a lot of space on the left side, particularly when McKennie presses forward. Finally, Gyasi Zardes is Berhalter’s main choice up top, so expect that to continue against Mexico.
This is going to be a slugfest on a soggy night in New Jersey. Not a lot of action will happen with expected torrential rains associated with Hurricane Dorian moving through the North Atlantic Ocean. However, one man will become a hero: Tyler Boyd. He hammers home a rebound in the final 30 minutes to give the USMNT a 1-0 victory.