By Mike Woitalla
The USA arrived in Mexico City late in the afternoon on Sunday and had a light practice in the evening. The Americans are aiming for an unprecedented achievement -- beating El Tri twice in a row on Mexican soil.
Mexican daily Ovaciones calls U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann “Coco del Tri,” which is actually a compliment. El Coco means "bogeyman," and Klinsmann is undefeated against the team nicknamed Tricolores.
As a player, Klinsmann scored the equalizer in Germany’s 2-1 defeat of El Tri in the round of 16 at the 1998 World Cup in France; started in a 0-0 friendly at Azteca in 1993; and came on as a halftime sub in a 1-1 friendly in Dresden in 1992.
When he coached Germany, it beat the Mexicans, 4-3, in the 2005 Confederations Cup. Klinsmann's debut as U.S. coach came in August 2011 when the USA tied Mexico, 1-1, in Philadelphia. Last August, the USA won at Mexico for the first time in history, a 1-0 victory in a friendly.
But Klinsmann’s undefeated run faces a big test on Tuesday.
Mexico’s home record in World Cup qualifying, dating back to 1949:
1 loss (Costa Rica, 2001).
5 ties (Jamaica, 2013; USA 1997; Costa Rica 1997; Canada 1980; Canada 1976).
Mexico's home record vs. USA in World Cup qualifying, dating back to 1949:
1 tie (0-0 in 1997)
46 goals for; 7 goals against
REGIONAL SUPREMACY ON THE LINE. Alberto Garcia Aspe starred for Mexico during the era that saw the USA began making it an even-handed rivalry. The most painful Mexican loss came with Garcia Aspe as captain at the 2002 World Cup, where the USA eliminated El Tri with a 2-0 win in the round of 16.
"There’s an obligation to win every game,” Garcia Aspe told Record. “But it’s a different pressure when you play against the USA. It’s not just about three points, but about regional supremacy. ... The USA is better in other areas, that’s normal, but in soccer Mexico has been more successful, which must be proven on the field each time the two nations meet.”
SCOUTING REPORT. U.S. Soccer staff coach Carlos Juarez sat in the stands in San Pedro Sula to scout Mexico in its 2-2 tie against Honduras on Friday, where the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees.
“I don’t think there’s any way to comprehend how tough the conditions were by watching the game on TV,” Juarez said of the clash in which Mexico gave up a 2-0 lead.
Juarez doesn’t believe Mexico losing captain Francisco Javier “Maza” Rodriguez and Jorge Torres Nilo to yellow-card suspensions will make a big impact. “Mexico has pretty deep roster,” Juarez said. “It’s a solid team at every position.”
According to media reports, likely to replace Rodriguez is Diego Reyes, the 20-year-old Club America defender who starred on the last summer’s Olympic gold-medal winning team, or the more experienced 25-year-old Tigres center back Hugo Ayala. To replace Torres Nilo, veteran winger Carlos Salcido could be moved to left back unless Coach Jose Manuel “El Chepo” de la Torre opts for 31-year-old Johnny Magallon, the Leon defender who recently came back into the national team fold after having been a member of the 2010 World Cup squad.
TOO EXPENSIVE? Tuesday’s game is sold out, which means about 104,000 fans at Azteca Stadium game, but El Universial reports that Mexican national team tickets are too expensive for the majority of citizens: “52 million [in a nation of 113 million] could not afford to attend a national team game." Cheapest tickets for the USA game are 140 pesos ($11.25), and Universal says 92 percent of Mexicans have only 100 to 500 pesos ($8-$40) of monthly dispensable income. ... According a survey by the Gabinete de Comunicacion Estrategica, 84.5 percent of Mexican fans believe El Tri will win on Tuesday, 11.8 predict a tie, and 2.6 foresee a U.S. win.