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
, 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:
(PSV Eindhoven), Omar Bravo
(Deportivo La Coruna), Guillermo Franco
(Villarreal), Giovani Dos Santos
and Antonio De Nigris
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
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.