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Mexico's problems mount before U.S. clash
by Mike Woitalla, January 23rd, 2009 7AM



[HEXAGONAL COUNTDOWN] Less than three weeks before facing the USA in the first game of final-round World Cup qualifying, Mexico is plagued by suspensions, injuries problems and the fact that several key players aren't seeing consistent action with their European club teams. Whether that's good news for the USA is open to debate.

Rafael Marquez, the central defender who stars for Spanish La Liga leader Barcelona, is unlikely to play against the USA Feb. 11. He suffered a calf injury on Wednesday in Spanish Cup play and Barcelona has ruled him out for two weeks. Even if he is near full fitness, the Spanish club is unlikely to approve of his joining El Tri for the Hexagonal opener in Columbus, Ohio.

Also injured and definitely out for the U.S. game is left winger Andres Guardado, who also plays in La Liga, for Deportivo Coruna. His absence could open up a spot for U.S.-born and -raised Edgar Castillo.

Suspended for the U.S. game are Gerardo Torrado and Carlos Vela, who were red-carded in Mexico's final semifinal round game, a 1-0 loss to Honduras, and Fernando Arce, for accumulated yellow cards.

(In the semifinal round, Mexico went winless in its last three games and advanced to the Hexagonal ahead of Jamaica thanks to goal difference.)

Moreover, several of foreign-based players see little or no time on the field for their European clubs: Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven), Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruna), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham) and Antonio De Nigris (Ankaraspor).

On the other hand, Guardado was enjoying a stellar run in Spain before his injury.

Mexico is preparing for the U.S. game with Jan. 28 friendly against Sweden in Oakland, Calif. Coach Sven Goran-Eriksson has come under fire from the Mexican media for calling up four foreign products who are naturalized Mexican citizens: Argentine-born Matias Vuoso and Lucas Ayala, and Brazilian-born Leandro Augusto and Antonio Naelson.

Goran-Eriksson's predecessors faced the same criticisms, but none had called up as many naturalized players at once. (The Mexican-American Castillo is not one of the players cited by detractors as a "foreign player.")

However, all of Mexico's troubles may not necessarily bode well for the USA. Mexico's futility on U.S. soil -- eight losses and two ties at the USA since 2000 - seems to be a product of the Mexicans' inability to cope with the pressure of facing their archrival. Consider that in 2007 Mexico lost to the USA, 2-1, in Chicago in the Gold Cup final, then three days later defeated Brazil, 2-0, in Venezuela in the Copa America. Brazil ended up winning the tournament.


Going into a U.S. game with low expectations from Mexican fans and Mexican media may be just what the Tricolores need to calm their nerves.

Join your friends in watching USA-Mexico Wednesday Feb. 11 at your favorite soccer viewing establishment.

Connect on FACEBOOK at the
USA-Mexico Viewing Party.

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