[USA-MEXICO COUNTDOWN]Mexico striker Carlos Ochoa, who played high school and college ball in Southern California, says criticism of his team's recent poor form has united the squad, which he believes is better than the U.S. team and will overcome Ohio's frigid conditions in the Hexagonal opener on Feb. 11.
"We know Mexico is better," the 30-year-old Chivas Guadalajara striker told Milenio.com. "We have a superior league and better players, but we have to demonstrate that on the field."
Ochoa was born in Apatzingan, Michoacan and moved to California at age 12. He scored 100 goals for Sierra Vista High in Baldwin Park, Calif., before starring at the NAIA's Azusa Pacific University. After a tryout with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he returned to Mexico.
Mexico is undefeated against the USA at home, but hasn't beat the Americans on U.S. soil since 1999.
Having won just once in its last six games - it suffered an embarrassing 1-0 loss to Sweden last week - prompted an avalanche of criticism from Mexican media. Sports daily Esto headlined a recent preview of the USA-Mexico game with, "Let us pray."
"All the negative stuff does affect us, but the truth is that we are closing ranks, that we are united as a team and are ready to go out and win," he said. "We have to be organized in the attack and defend well. We have to focus, because at this level mistakes are not forgiven."
Mexico has lost in the last two World Cup qualifying campaigns in Columbus, Ohio, a venue chosen by U.S. Soccer because the frigid conditions are expected to handicap the Mexicans, who host their games in the heat and altitude of Mexico City.
"The weather will be the same for both teams," Ochoa said.