[USA-MEXICO] Goalkeeper Tim Howard has come right out and said it: he and his USA teammates are out for revenge.
Being thumped, 4-2, by your bitterest rival will do that to a team, yet re gardless of the result in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field Wednesday (TV: ESPN2, Univision, live, 9 p.m. ET), Mexico will reign as Concacaf champion. The first match for Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. head coach is one of the most competitive he will ever face, and it’s also just six and a half weeks removed from a painful defeat.
“We need to win the game,” said the U.S. keeper on the federation’s Web site. “It’s important for us, for the rivalry, and it’s important to get off to a good winning start. There’s a lot of challenges that have to be met with the travel, the recovery and the lineups, and again just a lot of adapting. It’s going to take all hands on deck and hopefully we get it right with a good performance and we can build from that.”
Howard and his teammates had best be brimming with precision as well as inspiration, for instead of bringing a weaker team to this friendly than it fielded at the Gold Cup, the Mexico squad is perhaps stronger. Only Javier Hernandez, who suffered a concussion training with Manchester United during its tour of the U.S., has been omitted. Pablo Barrera (twice), Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos scored at the Rose Bowl that day and are in Philadelphia.
Also included are four of the five players suspended for the Gold Cup after testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol: Christian Bermudez, Guillermo Ochoa, Antonio Naelson and Francisco Rodriguez. The fifth, Edgar Duenas, is not in the squad.
The original USA team named by Klinsmann has lost three players. Robbie Rogers of Columbus has replaced Maurice Edu, and Zach Loyd of FC Dallas was named to take over for Tim Chandler. Defender Clarence Goodson, a mainstay at the Gold Cup, suffered a strained hamstring playing for his Danish club Brondby last weekend and was excused. No replacement was named.
In a first for this rivalry, the USA squad includes four Mexican League players: Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis) and DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla). Travel problems delayed Beasley’s arrival until Tuesday, and he is one of several options Klinsmann has at left mid. Castillo, Rogers and Brek Shea are also in contention to play on the left flank, where Landon Donovan played much of the time for predecessor Bob Bradley.
The absence of Edu won’t leave the USA short-handed in the middle. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, the regular central duo in the Gold Cup, are in the squad, Torres is primarily a central player, and Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman adds his energy and drive, not to mention those very cool dreadlocks.
Castillo is a possibility at left back and given the plethora of midfielders on the roster, he may get a chance to play alongside captain Carlos Bocanegra. Goodson’s absence could open up the other centerback spot for Tim Ream, whose rough outings at the Gold Cup prompted Bob Bradley to bench him, or Orozco Fiscal, who played at Lincoln Financial Field last season during the Philadelphia Union’s expansion year and has several years of experience in the Mexican League. Like Castillo and Loyd, Orozco Fiscal has just one cap.
Steve Cherundolo has been training for several weeks after suffering a severely sprained ankle in the Gold Cup final, but didn’t play last weekend for Hannover on the first day of the Bundesliga season. Loyd can play either outside back position, as can Heath Pearce.
Freddy Adu and Juan Agudelo -- who started five of six Gold Cup games -- are among the choices up top, as is Edson Buddle, a member of the 2010 World Cup squad who since leaving the Galaxy has played for FC Ingolstadt in the German second division.
The exclusions of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will give the USA a very different look as Klinsmann begins the process of learning about the team he has been hired to redesign.
“It’s still Mexico,” said Donovan prior to the team’s training session Tuesday. “It’s still an important game for us in that way, but big picture, the important thing is starting to learn what the expectations are and how’s it’s going to be going forward with Juergen.”