The US Men’s National Team plays Mexico Tuesday night in a World Cup Qualifying match that could clinch a berth in the 2014 World Cup for the Americans, provided they get some help from Honduras. Even better, a win by the US would absolutely cripple the rival Mexicans’ chances, leaving them in 4th place at best with just two games to go.
Unfortunately, the USA will enter this game without several key players. Regular starters Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Michael Bradley are all out, the first two with yellow card suspensions and the latter with an ankle sprain. Making matters worse, the versatile Geoff Cameron is also out with a suspension, meaning he can’t start at right back or fill in for Besler or Bradley.
These changes put heavy pressure on Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst in the back, as well as Kyle Beckerman in midfield. All have significant international experience and will not be frightened by the stage, but at the same time there is a reason they are backups. Bradley is who most consider the Americans’ most important player, and replacing him is the greatest challenge.
There is huge pressure on Omar Gonzalez and Jermaine Jones to solidify the central part of the field. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is a world-class striker, and he is always a threat, despite the fact that he is not currently in great form. Also, DeMarcus Beasley will have to be much better than he was in the last US-Mexico contest, where he was consistently beaten down the wing by Javier Aquino.
Up front, the attacking group of Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson should be able to generate quite a few chances against the shaky Mexican defense. Dempsey will technically be the striker as he was against Costa Rica, but all four players have the freedom to be change positions and be creative in the attack. Eddie Johnson and Aron Johannsson are the two true strikers on the roster, and one of them will likely be introduced at some point, and Johnson could even start.
Without four of their most reliable players, an already challenging game becomes exponentially more difficult for the US. However, Mexico just fired its coach after its last game and has struggled throughout qualifying.
Even though they have their own problems, the US is in far better shape than Mexico, and when combined with home-field advantage, it should be enough for the Americans to take the win and solidify their place in Brazil.