The Azteca stadium will witness another edition of the Concacaf Clasico, Mexico vs USA today. It will be the twelfth time the two CONCACAF giants will clash at the historic stadium in a World Cup qualifier, with the US having a dismal record of 6 losses, 3 draws, and zero victories.
US RECENT DOMINANCE
Despite these numbers, the trend for the US is clearly positive. During their last two visits, they tied 0-0 in 2013 and 1-1 in 2017. There is also the Annus horribilis Mexico had this past 2021. They lost three times in a single year, the Nations League final in June, the Gold Cup final just two months later, and the World Cup qualifier in Ohio back in November.
The first two games were two contested matches with Mexico playing better football. The Nations League final was the novel tournament that had little at stake other than the pride of beating the archrival. The match was a back and forth game that went into extra-time after each team scored twice. Christian Pulisic was awarded a penalty kick, which he converted, just moments before the end of the first added half. Mexico got themselves their chance to tie the game, also with a penalty kick, but where the American captain succeeded, the Mexican captain – Andres Guardado – failed and thus, the first Concacaf Nations League trophy went to the US.
The Gold Cup final was tense and full of chances for both sides, ultimately Mexico played better but couldn’t reflect it on the scoreline. A lone goal by Miles Robinson in extra-time silenced Mexico’s fans at the new Allegiant stadium at Las Vegas and gave team USA their seventh Gold Cup, one behind Mexico.
If the final matches had been even, the match at Cincinnati for the World Cup was everything but. The US wasn’t overwhelming but never felt under distress. They controlled the game from A to Z and with two goals from their stars Pulisic and McKennie, they sealed yet another 2-0 at Ohio.
INJURIES BUG BOTH TEAMS
Both teams come to this match touched by injuries, however the US will play without perhaps the best player of these qualifiers, Juventus’ midfielder Weston McKennie, who broke his foot last February against Villareal in the Champions League. Another important player who will surely be missed is Sergiño Dest. Barcelona’s defender injured his hamstring last Thursday against Galatasaray in the Europa League. Chris Richards, Matt Turner and Brenden Aaronson are also to miss the match due to injury.
The good news for the US is that Giovanni Reyna is back after battling with a hamstring injury he sustained during a World Cup qualifier game against El Salvador last September.
Mexico’s situation is not too different. They won’t be able to play with their captain Andres Guardado, who also sustained a hamstring injury playing against Atletico Madrid earlier in the month. Rodolfo Pizarro, Rogelio Funes Mori, ‘Cata’ Dominguez and goalie Jonathan Orozco are also missing the game because of injury. The silver lining for Mexico is that Orozco’s injury has opened the chance for Santos’ keeper and fan favourite Carlos Acevedo to be in the roster.
YOUTH VS EXPERIENCE
Perhaps the most striking difference is in the age of the players that form these two teams. During their last match at Cincinnati, the US averaged 23.5 years whereas Mexico averaged a whopping 29. If we consider that France won the last world cup with 26 years on average – the youngest team to win since Brazil did it at Mexico averaging 25 – it seems that the future belongs to the Americans. But nothing is said for the immediate future and this Thursday, just like in any other deeply rooted rivalry, everything is set aside and winning is all that matters. May the best team win.
Publisher’s Note: New Hampshire Latino News and El Tri Online are partners in best serving Mexican soccer fans in the Granite State.