July 1 in Mexico City
TV: Telemundo, live, noon ET (kickoff 1 pm ET); ESPN, tape, 4 pm ET.
Referee: Young Joo Kim (KOR).
STANDINGS: Mexico, 5th in the Hexagonal (1 win, 1 tie, 3 losses, 7 goals for, 8 goals against, 4 points); USA, 1st in the Hexagonal (4 wins, 1 tie, 0 losses, 7 goals for, 1 goal against, 13 points).
PRESSURE: Never has the USA been in such a comfortable qualifying position when going down to play Mexico. And never has Mexico been so down and desperate before hosting the USA. But in fact the USA would be better off if the Mexicans weren't in such a slump. By losing to Costa Rica and Honduras, Mexico opened up the Hexagonal race to contenders the USA would rather have seen in weaker positions at this point. The Americans face Honduras (Sept. 1) and Costa Rica (Sept. 5) next and what has looked like a cruise to the 2002 World Cup could still become nerve-racking if Bruce Arena's men return empty handed from Azteca Stadium.
NOT RELYING ON REYNA: Playmaker Claudio Reyna, who was suspended for two games in the semifinal round, is on a yellow-card suspension for Sunday's game. He left the U.S. win over Mexico in February early on with an injury and didn't recover in time for the win in Honduras. Clint Mathis filled in at the attacking midfielder spot. But Mathis is injured. Plus, John O'Brien is back with Ajax Amsterdam. Arena has used forwards Jovan Kirosvki and Joe-Max Moore in the attacking midfield spot. He could start one with Ante Razov up front and stick the other in midfield. Arena also welcomes back Cobi Jones after a two-game suspension. Arena could put Jones into the wide left spot Earnie Stewart has been occupying and use Stewart as the attacking central midfielder.
ARENA ON MEXICO: "They're not as bad their recent record indicates. They've been a little unlucky. I think that they juggled personnel too much over the last year, have used too many players, and the changing of coaches is never easy. I think over time, they'll be back again. Whether that's Sunday or down the road, they'll be back."
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