We are about 24 hours away from kickoff in Estadio Azteca, where the USMNT will take on Mexico in a critical World Cup Qualifying match that will go a long way in dictating how stressful this qualifying campaign will be for the two most dominating squads in CONCACAF over the past two decades.
Currently, the US is in second place in the Hex with three points after a win over Costa Rica in Friday's snow globe match in Denver. Right behind them is Mexico, which has two points having drawn both of its matches including last Friday when Honduras clawed its way back from a 2-0 deficit to remain in the lead with four points. The top three teams in the group all automatically advance to the 2014 World Cup, and most agree the three teams most likely to move on are the United States, Mexico, and Honduras.
USMNT captain Clint Dempsey celebrates his first-half goal against Costa Rica on Friday
The match tomorrow night means more than securing a stronger position in the Hex. It is for bragging rights...at least until September 10 when the return match comes to Columbus. It is also for revenge for Mexico, after the US beat them last August in a friendly in Azteca (the US had been 0-23-1 in Mexico prior to the victory). For the USMNT, this match is also about reclaiming some of the dominance that Mexico is perceived to have claimed in recent years in the region.
Michael Orozco Fiscal celebrates his game-winning goal against Mexico in August
The USMNT will once again be without two of its stars, goalkeeper Tim Howard and all-time leading goalscorer Landon Donovan. Newly minted captain Clint Dempsey looks to be rounding back into good form after scoring the lone goal Friday night, and he will likely be the top attacking threat for the US in Azteca. But the key to this contest will be the young American back line keeping Chicharito and the rest of the talented Mexican forwards off the scoresheet.
I am predicting a 1-1 draw, with the USMNT scoring in the first half and Chicharito earning Mexico a third draw in the hex with a second half goal. If this happens, the US will come away pretty confident in its quest to qualify, while Mexico will be disappointed in not defending its home turf well enough to earn three crucial points.
How do you see the match playing out? Share your predictions!