TSG’s Official USA vs. Mexico Preview: On The Road Again

It's "that fixture" time of year again. Classic.

It’s “that fixture” time of year again. Classic.

“A rolling snowball gathers only momentum” — Book of TSG, New Testament, 3:22

Okay, everyone thawed out now? Did the USMNT melt your heart Friday?

Thank you. We’ll move on.

Here’s what we learned tactically about the U.S. Friday night.



...like boarding on fresh powder...

…like boarding on fresh powder…

Okay, moving on again. Well, maybe we got a daisy cup cocktail of knowledge. Two parts Beasley, one part Jozy, and a sprinkle of Guzan– tremendous focus from the Villa keeper who probably thought he was playing with ping pong paddles instead of gloves on his hands.

Let’s get back to that momentum thing because it would appear to be the single strongest factor as the US and Mexico are set to collide Tuesday night.

The US of course is the warm front emerging from the cold, putting a notion of internal strife behind them for now with a pragmatic and gritty effort Friday night in Colorado. If you take a step back, the conditions in Commerce City favored the Costa Ricans, in so much as they were looking to junking up the game; content to sit back and punt upfield with a dash of hope. The US is the one that needed the points and would have to press at some point for a goal; luckily it came early.

Now the US rolls into the Mexico City’s fire pit in the sky; it has to be a little less daunting bus ride to the Azteca after the travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park–with a number of players who were on the right side of the final whistle in a friendly last August.

No less than 13 current squad members were present in the friendly dress rehearsal; a 1-0 victory off a Brek Shea nutmeg, Terrence Boyd flail and final Michael Orozco Fiscal poke home in the box. 1-0. The Fiscal Game.

The much celebrated El Tri however is hearing it from their nation this weekend and it’s cold and blustery. The celebrated squad is thought to be in their Golden Age, with a squad that all grew up together in their respective roles and fresh off a symbolic Olympic victory over the measuring stick of Brazil. Instead, El Tri arrives as the cold front.

Having been booed at home multiple times in their February draw against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica, Mexico headed down San Pedro Sula way to face a confident Honduras side on Friday. They put the Caratchos on their ass early with two deposits from the ever-improving, indefatigueable Chicharito only to see the defense capitulate in the second half when Honduran Jerry Bengston banged home his own penalty kick miss. Thisclose to pulling out of town with three points and changing the narrative.

But they didn’t and Mexico is sitting–restless–on two points with the Yanks coming to town.

Storms a’coming.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.

As usual it goes:

About The Opponent: Mexico

TSG: What We’re Looking At

11 At The Whistle


About The Opponent: Mexico

A possible El Tri deployment. (Note: With Reyes entering for Rodriguez, CB pairing location might swap.)

A possible El Tri deployment. (Note: With Reyes entering for Rodriguez, CB pairing location might swap.)

It’s the US archrival. It’s the Azteca. The expectation is for a Mexico win and a US loss.

However the high performance engine of Mexico is just not purring perfectly right now. A shaky defense, a hardly pristine possession game and just lacking that player–like a Blanco–who can sit in the middle of central midfield and demand respect in possession without necessarily having to be attacking.

The player is/was supposed to be Gio Dos Santos, though he may just have broken his slump with a solid performance in Honduras.

For US fans though, the no notion that Dos Santos is at all off right now, should bring no (read: ZERO) solace.

It’s seems like each year, Dos Santos has comes into national team camp off little club time–that’s changed with Levante this year–and been a mop-haired, bandana-wearing green wrecking ball against the States. Maybe it speaks to Dos Santos needing the biggest stage to drive his desire; it’s unclear.

Either way, Dos Santos’s resume is comfortably padded with entries ripping apart the US in Azteca in 2009–though he didn’t score he forced the entire US left central defense to seemingly be magnetized to any space around him opening up holes everywhere else–and of course in the Gold Final in 2011 when he hung a triple on Tim Howard and the discombobulated backline.

That said, the Mexican attack really begins with Javier Chicharito Hernandez.

He’s that important.

His movement open space and helps dictate the game.

In fact, you can consider the Mexican attack as a progression of sorts from the initial stimulus of his movement.

Let’s go through that progression below.

» 1. Mind your mark and the posts or you’ll lose the little guy.

This Mexico side is the most dominant on the cross that I can remember. It’s well integrated into their game plan. El Tri use it frequently to set the tone at the outset of matches. And it’s all because of one little vegetable. The star of the El Tri pea pod.

Chief Vegetable...

Chief Vegetable…

Javier “Chicharito (Little Pea)” Hernandez.


Tireless off-the-ball, Hernandez is the engine of the El Tri attack from the point of the attack.

The Mexican striker who leads the line, Chicharito seems to understand–and revel in–that his movement opens up gashes in the opponent’s defense.

Play a high line and Hernandez will hang of a centerbacks shoulder and drive that highline back. Once a defender is on his heels, Chicharito will check back and, rather that attempt to hold the ball and wait for the attack, he’ll knock-on to the wing for an advancing forward. It’s a patented El Tri play.

Conversely, play deep against Chicharito & co. and now you’ve put the hunter in his habitat, the box. The Mexico attack thinks nothing of continually dumping, crossing, slicing the ball into the box for a run that Hernandez has made or the guy trailing behind him. It’s almost worse to play deep–it’s all bad, really–because he’ll drag a CB all over and open up critical space in the middle.

He’s a can opener for the attack; then a merciless finisher on the one-touch.

How the US elects to manage Chicharito’s movement will shape the entire States’ defensive strategy.

Dare, I.

Wait, first go get a beer from the fridge. Ready? Okay shotgun that beer. Go get another one and crack it.

Gold Cup 2011.

It may have been Gio Dos Santo knocking in the triple against the US in that 4-2 debacle, but it was Chicharito popping up like the mole(s) in a whack-a-mole game that threw an already disorganized US backline into further disarray.

Carlos Bocanegra had his clear problems on the day as did Clarence Goodson.

In fact Goodson, who owned the snowy skies Friday night might find himself pine-bound for this one. Whether it was Guatemala, July 2012 away (with Carlos Ruiz), Italy in February 2012 (Giovinco probably was onsides for a few where he scooted behind Goodson) or that dreaded 2011 Gold Cup Final match, Goodson has an exceedingly difficult time at keeping an offside trap. It’s an abject weakness for him.

Now, if you remember, it was Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu in central defense back in August of 2012. There is a good bet that at least one of these players. will start at CB paired with one of Gonzalez or Goodson Tuesday night.

They’ll have to solve some simple but effective movement from Chicharito.

Below are two stills of Mexico’s first goal Friday in Honduras. Marking Chicharito is Victor Bernardez who many–myself included–consider one of the top CBs in MLS.

The first still is Bernardez goal-side. His defending mistake–after his first error, perhaps, of rushing back to keep Hernandez onside? His hips are squared upfield.

Bad move buddy. [Better form is to stand at an angle, not unlike an outfielder in baseball when the pitch goes up, and defend the near post. The far post is, well, further for the ball to travel accurately and presents the ability for your goalie to come get it.]

The second still shows you that it’s already curtains for Bernardez. Chicharito has given a quick fake far post while on the left Andres Guardado has beaten his man.

A quick service now to Chicharito who has broken to the near post shows that Bernardez has no chance. Hunter, hunted.

Chicharito about to get jiggy with it.

Chicharito about to get jiggy with it.

Chicharito, owning the near post.

Chicharito, owning the near post.

(Note that the pass from comes from the left flank where Mexico tries to get Guardado going early–the reason why comes shortly in our preview.)

You can watch the sequence here.

Just how well the US contains Chicharito will dictate that progression of the Mexican attack and conversely offer just how many opportunities going forward the US has on the day.

If the US is winning this battle you’ll see Mexico will force the ball wide to it’s attackers much more frequently AND more importantly Hernandez will start to drop deep into the midfield. If you see that action frequently from the Little Pea on Tuesday, the US defense is likely doing a very good job.

» 2. The Dos Santos Swivel morphs to the Dos Santos In-Cut Option

Continually petrifying Yanks' fans.

Continually petrifying Yanks’ fans.

We’ve talked about the Dos Santos Swivel before. The Mexican CAM has usually swung his positioning like a pendulum around the centerpoint of Hernandez.

However, you’re seeing Dos Santos more frequently now within the Mexican Attack Plan occupy the same space that Bryan Ruiz typically does for Costa Rica (though not this past Friday).

Dos Santos will either set up shop centrally and then check to a ball off the left flank OR he’ll set up on the right flank looking to come horizontal across the formation (a la Ruiz, a la Messi) and collapse the defense. The space for Dos Santos is of course set up by the defense dropping to cover Guardado’s crosses on the left.

Dos Santos’s key movement–to this eye–is off the right flank.

"The Dos Santos In-Cut Option" (Apologies for the blurry pic.)

“The Dos Santos In-Cut Option” (Apologies for the blurry pic.)

Almost starting near the touchline and in possession, the quick-footed midfielder is difficult to contain because that a left midfielder has to be behind the ball and then he must follow Dos Santos across the field. Because vertical movement by Gio is that dangerous because it’s at goal, the defender is typically already on his heals and needs help on the inside. The first battle in this case is already won.

As Dos Santos steams inside, Hernandez will make a run, the RFW Aquino will make a backdoor cut and Guardado might crash the far post.

It’s the Gio Dos Santos Incut Option and when it works, it’s sublime.

The US knows Dos Santos’s attacking ability all too well and it would seem that if it’s a single holder for the US, he’ll be very occupied with Dos Santos or if it’s a double-pivot, that might present a more stoic defense but in term fine the States’ on their heals all day with little ability to commit and get numbers forward.

» 3. The trailer option & back to the touchline

As the Mexican attack gets going and Chicharito and Dos Santos work to collapse the middle–like two pass rushers forcing an NFL offense to commit more numbers in protection, the trailers get involved. Either Carlos Salcido makes a late run or another player will make a late run to the space from which a Dos Santos’ helper has been drawn

Salcedo for Mexico

Salcedo for Mexico

Often a simple simple square pass is made to Salcido.

He then typically has three options: (1) take a smack on goal, (2) play a forward 1-2 pass with a checking Hernandez or (3 .. and the most common it would appear from the past two games) Loft a diagonal ball back to the right flank to the sitting forward or the advancing rightback.

Now Mexico will make change up their attack mentality against the States, but this is the hand they’ve showed often in World Cup qualifying.

It’s a strong front six for the US who can give the US some problems.

Beyond Chicharito and Dos Santos, the actors deploys as follows.

On the left is Andres Guardado, a terrific winger who prefers to stay wide. He’s a best-selling author of beautiful crosses into the box as Bernardez witnesses Friday.

However, Guardado is reluctant to take players off the dribble–making his game at times one-dimensional–which can compromise his ability to get that cross. He’s often negligent on tracking back–sometimes by design, but often out of lack of effort and his on-ball defending can often be matador-like.

On the right is Javier Aquino whose been in a bit of funk, but is still dangerous on that backdoor cut. The Aquino-DaMarcus Beasley match-up will be an interesting one because Aquino is very savvy–almost like a Pedro–at knowing when to make a run in the box.

Sitting behind the front four is Clint Dempsey’s former Fulham teammate Carlos Salcido, who to this eye has been excellent through the first two games of qualifying. He makes good decisions on the ball and chooses wisely when to come forward and when to sit. To his right is the future of El Tri in midfield, 6’3” Monterrey man Jesus Zavala–as is wont with any youngster, especially during pressure games, he can be given to mistakes of lack of experience.

The backline, however, has proven to be the Achilles heal of El Tri and it started long before it failed to preserve three points on the road Friday.

And now it will be missing it’s captain 31-year-old CB captain Francisco Rodriguez of Stuttgart out on yellow card accumulation.

Reyes: What we're you doing when you were 20-years-old?

Reyes: What we’re you doing when you were 20-years-old?

The pairing instead in CB will be Espanyol 24-year-0ld Hector Moreno and FC Porto 20-year-0ld Diego Reyes and given that’s the case you just might very well be veteran Gerardo Torrado perhaps sit in the midfield instead of Zavala to put some experience in the middle and allow Salcido to roam a little more and make plays.

The centerback spot has had a tremendous challenge stepping to attackers throughout qualifying. The soft underbelly of the deep midfield is where teams have profited and where you might see Clint Dempsey get a look like he put away against Italy early last year.  The introduction of Reyes may in fact improve that for two reasons: (1) it was Rodriquez who shouldered most of the blame for Honduras two goals, one on errant defending of Carlos Costly, the other on a poor foul that resulted in Bengston’s penalty  and (2) Reyes hasn’t privy–on the pitch that is–to the poor play of El Tri’s fullbacks.

Part of the problem for the centerbacks pushing up is that the fullbacks have been downright dreadful both in defending (and in possession too for that matter getting easily knocked off the ball by stronger Jamaican and Honduras players these two games). When fullbacks are recognized to get beaten it often forces a CB pairing back for cover and that’s just what you’ve seen for Mexico.

At leftback is Jorge Torres who is being given every opportunity to win the role. After a series of good performances, Torres has shown a frequency to get beaten often and more importantly has authored a series of horrific giveaways in his own end. The US should pressure him when possible.

The El Tri rightback spot is the equivalent of the US leftback revolving door. After Paul Aguilar consistently got beat goalside (though without joy) against Jamaica, in case CM-by-trade Servero Meza against Honduras who didn’t have any serious blunders on the day. He’ll likely get the start in the Yanks.

In goal is the very familiar veteran Guillermo Ochoa who wrestled the role away from Olympic sensation Jesus Corona. Chepo has went with experience here and Ochoa saved a Bengston penalty on Friday (though he knocked back to the striker for an easy putback), but for TSG’s money Jesus Corona is the better player even now.

Depending on game situation, the US is likely to see two of the following three in the second half: Aldo De Nigris (who nearly singlehandedly beat the US in the friendly last August), Angel Reyna (for whichever wide forward is faltering) or Marco Fabian (if Gio Dos Santos fails to create opportunities.) Fabian is the exciting one to watch.

August, 2009: The US flirted ever so briefly with history

“Davies In, Davies Shot, Davies Goal. Goal for the United States at Azteca.

Only the 4th man to do it for the Red, White & Blue and they’re going crazy in the corners!”


TSG What We’re Looking For:

(Update: Jermaine Jones out with an ankle sprain/gash).

» Don’t make this a tennis match; Stem momentum and pressure. Maximize your TOB (“Time on Ball”)

El Tri that relies on rhythm more so than any other team internationally save perhaps Argentina.

When thinks are clicking, you can see the run of play invigorate the entire side.

More players make sharper runs. Risky and challenging passes are usually completed. Players who have the ability are more willing to take defenders on.

The US can ill afford to get into an up-down game with this El Tri side, because they are devastating with space.

There’s a few ways the US will need to manage this.

This is what you want Tuesday night--minus the snow and yellow ball of course...

This is what you want Tuesday night–minus the snow and yellow ball of course…

› Get the ball to Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones and “someone else.” Bradley must be okay in possession and another player (Zusi, Beasley?) need to be okay with the marble as well.

› Be wise with the fouls early. Beyond gamesmanship–which the US is not a frequent user of–a good placed foul here and there can slow a change in tempo in El Tri’s behavior. Avoid early yellows or persistent fouling early. With 105,000 fans on hand, 104,400 who will be rooting on the Green & Red, fouling incorrectly, especially early, can get the ref looking one way.

› Don’t be afraid to play a few diagonal balls even if there’s a low chance of success. This strategy is one that can work for attack, but also work to get the ball 180 degrees away from El Tri’s most dangerous attacking origination point.

» Managing the flanks.

Unless Chicharito goes Messi, this game will likely be won on the flanks by the team that recognizes when to attack aggressively and also tracksback the best.

US fans may rue Steve Cherundolo’s absence as the tonic he brings on the right would be apt for game strategy in this one.

The States will should look to play frequently up the right channel with an on-rushing Altidore or even–if aggressive is the plan–Eddie Johnson flipped to that flank. Since Mexico musters much of their attack from the right, getting the ball high on the right puts the ball the furthest from the US danger spot while forcing Guardado to track back. Pushing hard into that corner may also open some room for Dempsey to be found in the middle.

Either side however, if the US can isolate an attacker to go at goal against a fullback, they may two or three good chances on the day as a result.

August 2011: Brek Shea gets the ball in isolation on the left. The US finds the winning goal. The US needs a few opportunities like this on Tuesday evening.

August 2011: Brek Shea gets the ball in isolation on the left with help arriving late. Shea beats his man and the US finds the winning goal. The US needs a few opportunities like this on Tuesday evening.

» Double-pivot or single holder

Now, this is a tough one. The US has been downright stagnant on the attack on the road in CONCACAF when they deploy three defensive midfielders.

That said, it was a 1-0 defensive result that saw the US break the Azteca hex in a friendly in August of last year and one of the midfielders who create a bottleneck centrally was Kyle Beckerman with a tremendous performance.

Look for Beckerman to man a slightly off-left holding role and for Michael Bradley to do yoeman’s work in the middle. Because the US is down Jones and will likely insert Edu at CB, expect Graham Zusi or perhaps even Brad Davis to tuck and form a linking outlet from the center on right or left respectively.

The US will need to balance ball possession and it’s forward push and it start centrally.

» Miscellaneous

» Props to the coaching staff. Last time down at the Azteca DaMarcus Beasley ran around like Frankie Hedjuk on crack. Literally no positional awareness. Beasley entered in the second half ahead of a splendid Edgar Castillo (the US could really have used his experience against the Mexican contingent in this one). Beasley often left Castillo on an island, or let’s call it a boat, and despite Mexico hacking at his boat, Castillo kept it afloat.

Credit to the US coaching staff for putting Beasley in at leftback against Costa Rica and not at left mid. That said, with a better playing surface Beasley will need to maitain his positional discipline is employed in the same role at the Azteca. Likewise both wide midfielders will need to track back with discipline and quickly upon a turnover. Not sure the coaching staff sees it that way though.

When Mexico’s counter comes, it comes hard and it’s usually because a midfielder has bum rushed the box ahead of his defensive counterpart who has been caught upfield.

» Everyone plays defense.

A possible US deployment. Gomez may stay at LW for EJ though...

A possible US deployment. Gomez may stay at LW for EJ though…

11 At the Whistle

The skinny: This is not the game you wanted to lose Jermaine Jones for as the US could easily have used two CMFers with defensive chops and ability on the ball. The US will also need to find some job on one of the flanks to batten back the Mexican backline creating space.

G: Brad Guzan

The skinny: Will Guzan be the first US keeper to see victory in a non-friendly in Mexico City. Guzan is so used to continued pressure at Villa that this game–aside from the crowd–should be business as usual. Nick Rimando is a worthy deputy.

Beasley, resolute on Friday.

Beasley, resolute on Friday.

DEF: DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron

The skinny: Klinsmann certainly needs to choose one or both of Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu in central defense. He, of course, choose both of them last August. The choice between Goodson and Gonzalez is a difficult one. Goodson has shown you his toolset and offball movement and positioning is a challenge for him. Likewise, Gonzalez got worked by Jerry Bengston in February.

It’s a tough call. We go with Goodson because of his experience–albeit a beating–against Mexico–twice. Haven’t mentioned that 2009 Gold Cup Final yet, have we? (Close your eyes Goodson and Chad Marshall.)

Beasley on the left will need some support over the top…..or he’ll be….toothless. (Sorry that joke’s been there for the taking since Friday.)

CDM: Kyle Beckerman

The skinny: The RSL captain gets the call and his introduction offers a few things. First, he’ll sit off-left to attempt to shut down that Dos Santos in-cut. Second, he’s able to play the ball up field under duress. Third, if the US if feeling their oats, he’ll enable Beasley to get a few rushes forward by staying at home.

CM: Michael Bradley

The skinny: No player means more to the US this game than Bradley, especially now that Jermaine Jones is out. As Bradley goes, so go the US. There’s something almost reassuring about that now. Amazing.

LM/RM: Eddie Johnson, Graham Zusi

The skinny: Some part inside of me is suggesting that the three subs who came on on Friday (Eddie Johnson, Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman) are all potential starters in this one. The question is for who. With Gomez being the only one that went 90 mins Friday night, he *may* give way to Johnson. Coin flip.

CM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: The captain attempts to attack the space that El Tri’s CBs won’t step too.

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: A solid effort from Altidore on Friday. He’ll need to something he’s hardly ever done in a US kit at the Azteca. Commit himself offensively and defensively for a full 90+ minutes.

Altidore, as oppose to playing hold-up ball Tuesday likely drags to the right flank often (as he did against Canada in Gold Cup 2011 and Slovenia at World Cup 2010) to push Mexican defense back on that side and open space for Johnson.

Next up: 104,440 screaming Mexican raining down negativity on the US side….

65 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by TWEW on 2013/03/25 at 9:42 AM

    I really don’t know how I feel about Beckerman taking up the role of Bradley’s dance partner. As your article points out, the U.S.’s ability to keep possession will be a huge factor in this match. Placing Beckerman in the starting line up will make it much harder for the back line to link up with the midfield. Further, Beckerman’s lack of distribution chops will slow down the counter-attack, which is probably the only way we’re going to score in this one.

    While Beckerman’s engine will certainly help the back line, I think the burden outweights the benefit.

    The alternative – as your article again points out – is to play with “a single” pivot, throw an attacking midfielder ahead of Bradley, and push Dempsey up and under Altidore. I would consider giving Gomez or Corona the nod and move Zeus up and central to fill the attacking MF role.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/25 at 1:41 PM

      I think starting Beckerman is a bad idea because Dos Santos will always be a step or two ahead of him in that area. You don’t want a holding mid that will constantly be chasing play.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 1:50 PM

        I don’t Beckerman does a very good job at positioning. Remember, it’s not 1v1 defending. It’s help defending and he and Cameron did an excellent job when Beasley was upfield licking a lollipop or something after the attack had turned last time.

        Beckerman knows when there is danger and when there isn’t. Agree though, if you’re asking Beckerman to essentially faceguard Dos Santos, you’re asking for trouble.

        BTW, I do think this is a winnable game if the US take the initiative and oddly enough, it may be up to Dos Santos defense just how much pressure the US comes under in the back on a change of possession.


    • Posted by s44 on 2013/03/25 at 4:35 PM

      The alternative alternative is to use Edu instead of Beckerman, though this means you either have to replace Cameron out wide, play two trees in the middle, or blood Besler at Azteca.

      It would be interesting if Corona got a run-out in this situation.


  2. I can’t be the only one that feels really good about this? I think we get at least a point. If Mexico isn’t up by halftime the crowd should turn on them.

    I’ve never been crazy about Beckerman but the performance he put in at the friendly in Azteca is hard to ignore. He was simply one of the best players out there for the US. You’re spot on about him under pressure.

    My only concerns are about potential yellow cards for Dempsey and Bradley.

    I feel like it’s Christmas Eve.


  3. I’m curious, assuming a healthy and not-on-sabbatical roster, who would TSG field for this game from an ideal availability standpoint? Also, what is Davies up to these days? I still remember watching that clip live… Sigh. Stu Holden, hurry up!


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 9:53 AM

      Davies is sitting the bench for Randers — a common stop for Americans on the cheap in Europe. It’s not looking great for him right now.

      That’s a loaded question there. :>


      DEF: Edgar Castillo, Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu, Steve Cherundolo

      CM: Bradley, Jones

      MF: Shea, Dempsey, Donovan

      STR: Gomez (not because we’re homers, but because we don’t trust Altidore’s defense).

      That’s my quick and dirty set of picks.


      • That would be an amazing lineup assuming full fitness and form.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 1:39 PM

        Actually flip the whole line-up — somehow I got it backwards.

        It is:

        Cherundolo, Edu, Cameron, Castillo (just for this Mex game.)
        Jones – Bradley
        Donovan Dempsey Shea


        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/25 at 2:07 PM

          This is why I like listing strikers top and keeper bottom. Left players should be on the left, right on the right.


  4. Posted by Alex on 2013/03/25 at 9:53 AM

    This is one of the most comprehensive and detailed previews from this site; bravo to TSG.

    I wonder if Sacha Kljestan could play as a 3rd CM who’s advanced of Bradley and Beckerman. Better ball control in the midfield and he adds more box to box coverage than Dempsey. With that, could Dempsey be asked to play the flank? Maybe a front six (from left to right) of Beckerman, Bradley; Gomez, Kljestan, Dempsey; Altidore. I question whether that takes away some of the goal scoring chances Dempsey creates by attacking the box centrally like he’s done so well under JK, and if he will track opposing flank players, or leave Cameron on an island.

    This game also seems ripe for Brek Shea to come on in the 2nd half and terrorize the Mexican right like he did in the Azteca friendly. Hope he’s good to go and contribute tomorrow


  5. Posted by gaug on 2013/03/25 at 10:31 AM

    Usually not a fan of Beckerman and not sure how his club form has been, but he has looked good for the Von Trapps/Waldos lately.

    I think ideally we make it to halftime at 0-0 and sneak in a goal in the last 20 minutes. I don’t think our defense can withstand the Mexican onslaught that would ensue if we went up early in the game.


  6. For ASN website, I chose:
    ST Altidore but I so want to start Gomez here
    LM Gomez (you stated Beasley will need help and Gomez will do more than EJ, I expect EJ as first player to come in)
    CF Dempsey
    RM Zusi
    CM Beckerman
    CM Bradley
    LB Beasley
    CB CAMERON (he’s the one that played Chicharito so well last time not Edu)
    CB Big question mark here (Gonzalez/Goodson/Besler or Edu?)
    RB Beltran or Edu (not sold on Cameron this far out wide for this game)

    I am only a fan of playing someone that plays defense well and that means no Klestjan for me and maybe no Shea. Moreso Corona or EJ.


    • Posted by Union on 2013/03/25 at 12:21 PM

      Why do people want Eddie Johnson on the field? Just don’t get it. Boyd, Boyd, Boyd Boyd.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 12:22 PM

        I’m not sure this is a game for Boyd here and I don’t prefer Eddie Johnson though it would seem he’s a Klinsmann favorite.

        Unless you’re going with Boyd up top alone–which may not be prudent for the youngster here–you’re likely going with Boyd and Altidore and the US could get overrun in the midfield.


  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 12:03 PM

    Read somewhere 11 home losses total for Mexico since 1967 — that’s staggering.

    I think for the US a lot of what they do is going to stem also–beyond managing Hernandez–from just how well Geoff Cameron–who’s not playing all that great right now–can contain Guardado on the right. If Cameron needs help that’s really going to cause a problem for the US on a quick switchfield or cross when another defender has been drawn out to the flank.

    That’s how Mexico likes to get started.


    • Posted by Alex on 2013/03/25 at 12:34 PM

      It seems like Cameron struggled when Oviedo overlapped but did well when facing Costa Rican attackers on the dribble. Could do well to stand up Guardado but gotta question his agility and quick change of direction from someone as tall and rangy. Also needs more support from whoever’s on the right vs Nilo


  8. Posted by jb on 2013/03/25 at 12:07 PM

    For me, if ever there is a match to start conservatively and defensively, this is it. This is the time for the 3 Dmids that our fans hate so much. Not only because we’re playing the toughest regional team in their house, but also because it worked well in the friendly win there last year. One of the things I still remember about that match is how visibly and obviously frustrated the Mexican players were as the game wore on and they were unable to score. I also seem to recall the fans getting restless and even booing their own team. This will be how the US can pave the way for a counter. But its going to take some serious and nervy defending early in the game. We give one up early and it could be a long night. Definitely miss Jones. Worry about Dempsey’s defending in the proposed lineup, though he was dialed in against Costa Rica. Wish we had another option there and maybe move him over to an in-cutting flank. Switch him and Zusi?


  9. Posted by Union on 2013/03/25 at 12:15 PM

    Great preview. I understand the Beckerman logic and imagine that is where Jurgen goes. Personally, I don’t think he’s good enough at possession in a game that will be as fast paced as this one, so I’d prefer Sacha and let Bradley handle the more defensive role. Bradley’s leadership will also help our makeshift defensive line.

    I don’t think you can take out Gomez, ESPECIALLY not in favor of Eddie Johnson. I honestly have no idea why Eddie was called in against Costa Rica. I think he’s going to be completely outclasses against Mexico. Shea is your guy.

    My preferred lineup:


    Boyd on for Jozy, Shea on for Zusi/Gomez. Beckerman for Sacha if we’re down/if midfield is being overrun.

    I could also see Corona getting minutes on the wings. I just really hope Boyd/Shea get time. They are the single reason we scored against Mexico during the friendly at Azteca. Boyd is the type of forward that gives Mexico tons of trouble.


  10. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 12:21 PM

    Please note the mistake on the Mexican line-up above. Torres Nilo is out with card accumulation. Magallon, the veteran, will likely slot in.

    Plan accordingly.


    • Posted by crow on 2013/03/25 at 1:01 PM

      sorry about the horrible formatting this keyboard is the bane of my existence. just try figuring out how to use the @ key on this keyboard.

      i dont know how the players go 90 minutes here in mexico city. i did 4 laps in a pool here at the hotel and i thought i was going to have a heart attack with the polluted air smell and elevation. i thought chester, pa smelled bad. and i was on kilimanjaro this year. the air here makes los angeles seem like glacier national park.

      surprised more people are not talking about costa rica´s protest. the tontas on futbol picante are talking about it nonstop basically suggesting its guaranteed there will be a replay due to the horrific and embarassing conditions. after the theatrics of costa rica i think i will actually be cheering for mexico over costa rica… i cant believe i just said that. the only embarrassment to concacaf is the costa rican team. first in 2009 faking injuries, having mulitple coaches being ejected and having to be pulled from the field as they desperately tried to back their way into the world cup… and now this.

      thank you tsg! the conditions actually favored costa rica or the road team. we know if costa rica had earned a draw there would have been no protest. the lines were visible the whole game. i saw the disallowed goal go into the net from the opposite side of the field with snow blowing in my face. the fools on futbol picante kept saying to play the game the next day. i was in denver… im from the northeast and saturday was about the coldest ive ever been in my life digging out my car. the temperature dropped considerably.. it was 8 degrees in the afternoon with a wind chill far below 0. it was still snowing when my flight left saturday evening. part of i70 was closed. the weather did not improve until today. the game had to be played then as the conditions were getting worse by the minute. if this game gets replayed, the usa better protest any game they have to play in ridiculously humid weather, in &&&&hole stadiums with astroturf, with fans throwing batteries and vomit at them… which would be every game.

      sorry, im not worried about dos santos. my only memory of dos santos is the 2009 columbus game where he missed that sitter and was ineffective throughout. the 2011 gold cup final was a joke. bradley mismanaged the player pool to exhaustion, and jones and bradley were on the worst form of their careers, and there was bornstein. mexico did nothing until he came onto the pitch.

      it is a shame about jones being out because he had been playing better. a shame about his injury. really nice seeing beasley have such a strong game, considering his tooth problem.


  11. Figure this is as good a place to ask as any – in light of the Columbus locale for the home game against Mexico, I’m going to that game, barring natural disaster or a death in the family. And buy AO section tickets. Couple of my buddies want to go but aren’t sure if they’ll be able to make the game…and I don’t know what the general view on reselling supporter section tickets is.


  12. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/25 at 12:58 PM

    So I just rewatched most of the Friendly last summer. As a formation summary for everyone:
    (Note: Torres was horrible, like he wasn’t even there, Donavon did a ton of defensive work as did williams. )
    (Note: Beasley left Castillo out to dry, Mexico got way more going directly though that openning, Gomez missed a pass to a wide open Boyd)
    Just before Goal:
    (Note: Goal directly from Beckerman picking up loose ball, feeding shea, who schooled the fullback, Boyd having a ton of awareness and Orozco being completely out of position.)

    Two Line-ups that I “like”. I am having a bit of a hard time with the fact that we have so much missing.

    I could switch Edu and Cameron, heard before the game against costa rica that Edu was practicing at Right Back, so I’ll give it a whirl. Cameron really was the difference maker against Chicharito last game. I agree that you cannot start both Goodson and Gonzalez in this game. I have kljestan in jermaine jones’ role getting forward and leaving bradley to hold. Zusi starting isn’t my favorite either, but we really have no one else to fill in on the right.

    Here is my alternative:


    • That is not the formation I remember:

      Donovan had a gimpy hamstring was not effective at all, Gomez was coming off playing 5 games in two weeks so his legs were dead and then there was Torres with no one to pass to up front because Donovan kept falling to midfield (probably due to his hamstring) and the 3 defensive mids were the bigger issue b/c they couldn’t pass. Enter Beasley, Shea, Boyd, and Fiscal. Game USA.

      Torres was ineffective but who did he have in that game to pass to? I agree he’s not performed well but that is not the game to complain about him.


      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/25 at 2:14 PM

        Donavon as Striker was the ESPN graphic, but watching the game he was very deep over Castillo the whole half. Made a few runs underneath. During the broadcast Twellman constantly talking about torres and donavon being on the same level behind Gomez. I would almost say it was 4-1-4-1


  13. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 12:59 PM

    Some talk from Doug McIntyre and others in the Mixed Zone today that:
    – The US players already know the line-up
    – There is likely a single change from Friday with Jones out .. the replacement being either Edu or Kljestan.

    Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 12.58.11 PM


    • Posted by mbw on 2013/03/25 at 1:07 PM

      Unless something changes, this is the second game running the lineup has been set well in advance. Sounds like JK took that part of the Straus critique to heart?


    • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/25 at 1:24 PM

      I think you may have that slightly off. If its truly just the change for Jones, then I think you see Edu/Kljestan ahead of Bradley.

      Klinsman has played Edu forward a bit before. I think it was against Brazil. He had bradley sit deeper with Edu and Jones in front of him. Also given that he usually likes to play with an Advanced Destroyer I could see Edu in front of Bradley.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 1:36 PM

        Could be either. I think if it’s Edu he sits deeper as he typically does with Bradley, if it’s Kljestan it’s higher.

        I haven’t seen JK use the advance destroyer role all that much; he’s more focused on keeping shape…even at the expense of the attack.

        FWIW, Klinsmann has been playing mind games with the US media ever since using JFT against A&B.

        I don’t think Kljestan starts. I think Edu starts in midfield if he’s not already starting in defense. If Edu is starting in defense then perhaps Kljestan.

        It would be kind of ridiculous if you think about the reps that Klinsmann has given to Beckerman & Edu in the middle to start Kljestan there. IMO.


        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/03/25 at 2:34 PM

          I know Jones is supposed to be more of a all around midfielder, but I see him as an Advanced Destroyer with some passing range.

          Beyond that I like bradley holding near Dos Santos too. Cutting off his supply and controlling the game from deep. Edu tends to give away the ball a little too easily to be a great holding mid. I really like Edu and hope he improves that part of his game, because a 4-2-3-1 with Edu and Bradley in the 2 band could be a really nice formation.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/25 at 1:56 PM

      Do not like Goodson paired with Omar in defense against Chicharito. There is zero chance those two have the lateral quickness or overall speed to stay with him.

      I do like the idea of Kljestan starting in midfield instead of Beckerman because of concerns over Beckerman’s speed against guys like Dos Santos.


  14. Salcido might be a more logical fit for Torres Nilo’s LB spot than Magallon – I think Salcido is actually a natural left back who was converted to the midfield a few years ago. Herrera or Torrado could fill Salcido’s spot at MF. I’ve heard rumblings that the winger Guardado is an LB option as well, though that seems very unlikely given his importance in Mexico’s attack.

    It is fascinating to see the enormous amounts of pressure Mexico is under when it comes to this game. Can’t wait for the game.

    Glad TSG pointed out that we didn’t really learn anything about the USA from the Costa Rica match, except maybe that the good ol’ “never say die with our backs against the wall” attitude is still there at the moment. What mattered against Costa Rica was the result – we needed the 3 points. Tomorrow, I think the result is almost insignificant, though a draw or win would feel awesome. I’m more interested in seeing if the sorts of problems we learned about last week – lack of faith in JK’s methods, fractured loyalties, etc – manifest themselves on the field.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 1:37 PM

      Could be Guardado, but I doubt it next to a young Reyes. Salcido is an option, but he’s been so strong in MF that I wouldn’t move him.

      I tell you though. Mexico’s backline play has really been every bit as inconsistent as the States.


      • Fair points. Agreed that MEX’s backline is in a state of flux, like ours. Hope we can take advantage and put some pressure on them tomorrow – it could pay off.


        • Posted by Dave on 2013/03/25 at 6:23 PM

          US Soccer reports that Torres Nilo and Héctor Moreno are on 1 yellow card, only el Mazatleco Rodríguez suspended. By the way, I believe Salcido started out as a central defender for Chivas, but I’m old and my memory isn’t great. He did spend most of his career at left back. He’s also right footed and able to use both feet well.
          Why do you think it will be Reyes and not Ayala to replace Maza? A little.sad to see Maza out, as I think he (and Ochoa in goal) are weak links in the back for Mexico.


          • Posted by Dave on 2013/03/25 at 8:15 PM

            I see Femexfut has Chepo’s press conference up. He mentions both Ayala and Reyes as possibilities to replace Maza. I’m just taking a shot in the dark, but I think he might use Ayala since he plays club ball with Salcido and Torres Nilo. Also a bit older and more experienced than Reyes. Reyes does play for Club América and is a bit taller, so accustomed to altitude and perhaps better in the air than Ayala. Not that the US has seemed all that good at getting headers in lately.


  15. Like Bradley’s quote about not going out there to play defensive soccer. If that’s a hint at anything it would be Kljestan over Edu. But I’d actually prefer to see both in there with Zusi as a sub.


  16. Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/25 at 2:30 PM

    Once again the most comprehensive, intelligent and well-thought-out analysis of this showdown that you can find on the whole worldwide interwebs.
    You seriously rock the house.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 4:19 PM

      Too kind — I really appreciate the feedback. It’s also fun to dissect tape.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/03/26 at 4:56 AM

        Matt- whats the Stu knee joint reference in the Twitter feed? You’ve got to stop with the cryptic Stu stuff. It scares the hell out of us…..


  17. For those talking about going conservative here and elsewhere, I respectfully disagree. If there ever was a game to go out swinging, this is it. Mexico lacking momentum, shaky defensively, and coming off a win. We play better always when we play positively. Do you know how many times I’ve heard “a draw would be a good result” from USA fans and commentators? It’s almost cliche. Mexico has some dangerous players but this is a winnable game UNLESS we sit back and put Jozy on an island,

    Azteca be damned. Stacking the midfield is not our true selves.

    I think the biggest threat off the bat is the Mex wingers winging balls into the box, or a set piece, so I put Goodson-Gonzalez in the middle to win headers.

    I like Beckerman-Bradley in central mid, Gomez (Shea) and Zusi (EJ).


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/26 at 10:10 AM

      The danger is definitely from crosses but it’s not a game where the height of those players matters but their ability to stay with Chicharito. That’s how he scores goals by leaving the bigger defenders behind.


  18. US coming off a win, that is.


  19. Posted by Paul on 2013/03/25 at 5:49 PM

    Very thorough analysis. The content and range of thought in your article eclipsed most of the work done by sites with additional writers.

    Quick thought: I like the idea of parking the bus for the first twenty minutes to (a) give the players a chance to settle into the game, and (b) allow the Mexican fans to become angry with their players. Ideally, the US would slowly allow Beasley and Bradley chances to go forward as the half goes forward.

    Assuming the game is tied at the 60th minute, what kind of a sub do you/Klinsmann put in? Does Klinsmann do a like for like switch in the attack (Gomez for Johnson) or does he swap Beckerman for Sacha, pushing Bradley to CDM?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/03/25 at 6:13 PM

      Thanks kindly.

      Parking the bus initially is not a bad strategy and if you think about it, this is what the US did in Honduras as the Hondurans came after them with a lot of pressure and the US survived it.

      It almost is going to happen anyway, as El Tri will be geeked for this game coming out of the gate. What you might want to do–a la the US strategy against A&B in the rain—is launch some diagonal balls down the left flank for an advancing EJ (or Gomez). See if you can suck in Mexico and hit at RB where they’ve had some trouble.

      Jamaica had some success in this regard.

      Assuming the game is tied and it’s 0-0, I think it all depends how it’s going. It’s interesting that everyone is saying that Klinsmann should “go for it” because if you think back to 2009, Bob Bradley inserted both Feilhaber (a vet) and Holden (in his second A team cap!) into the line-up in the 60th minute or so. Holden just missed on that cross to Davies.

      If it’s defensive no doubt you’ll see Beckerman (if not in) or Kljestan for an Altidore or a Gomez. (If Jozy, Gomez or even EJ up top). If it’s attacking, you’ll see Shea for sure in my opinion and I wish the kid was ready to start because I think this is the game for him.


      • Posted by Dave on 2013/03/25 at 8:41 PM

        I think if you can frustrate Mexico long enough they get impatient. At least that was my take on The Jamaica draw. Somewhere in the 2nd half they started misfiring on a lot of early long shots instead of trying to build something patiently.
        If US can bunker and run enough counters to get them moving it might wear some of them down physically–they’re coming off a hard game in the heat in Honduras where both Gio and Chicharito came out with leg cramps. Remember, too, that none of their European based players are playing regularly at altitude. They’re also likely to start a number of players from low altitude Monterrey and Tigres, though with 2/3 of LigaMX teams at 5000 ft or above those fellows are used to dealing with it.

        Just make sure to deal with those long shots and hope they don’t take a bad deflection, because they definitely have guys who can hit them well.

        Might not hurt to try Ochoa from distance, too. Honduras sure seemed to think he was vulnerable to that, though they couldn’t keep those shots down. Would also like to see US try high floated service in to the box on at least a couple set pieces as Mexico has had trouble with that in the past.


      • Posted by KHRiZZY on 2013/03/26 at 10:10 AM

        Everytime I see Beckerman’s name I cringe at the fact he’s a selection for the 23 man roster over Benny.

        Beckerman is to Klinsmann as Ricardo Clark is to Bob Bradley.

        Is it me or did Klinsmann declare he was going to bring a possession oriented & attacking style approach to the team. A team that could work out of the back by connecting passes and transition from back to front effectively?

        Yet, he seems to riddle the midfield with defensive minded; inept passers of the ball that lack creativity ( yes I’m aware the team is riddled with injuries, so this is me taking it lightly on the great Jurgen)

        Does anyone truly believes that against the top completion internationally, a mix of KBeckerman, JJones, DWilliams, SKljestan, MEdu in the central midfield will prevail? My guess is we will more often than not lose the midfield battle ( putting it kindly).

        Yes, I excluded MBradley the only one I’m sold on out of the bunch.

        Shockingly I think Bob Bradley was the better evaluator of talent so far from what I’ve seen from the two regimes. Even though BBradley has the mind boggling selections of Bornstein and Clark regulary…

        Oh well, we shall see what happens…but sadly I think we are regressing on the international stage as of late.


  20. Posted by Fellaini'sFro on 2013/03/25 at 7:38 PM

    The analysis and comments for this game is outstanding and once again I congratulate TSG for being the best soccer commentary site. It has definitely moved beyond blog status and it is my first stop for all things USMNT.

    I think one of the key efforts should be to harass and mark Dos Santos all game long. During the Gold Cup game of 2011 he was completely bottled up and frustrated until Bornstein came on. I remember him resorting to cheap shots and elbows to the backs of every player around him as he got dispossessed or lost the ball. It was his goals and service that opened everything else up. If we keep him bottled up and eventually frustrated maybe he will earn himself a yellow card or worse. Douchebag to the magnitude of 1000 suns he is.


  21. […] » Want a tactical preview of the game?  Head over to The Shin Guardian for their preview. […]


  22. […] A game did show up on Friday night, and there’s no question he relishes playing for country. There is a great breakdown of Gio Dos Santos’ different tactical set ups within the Mexican te…Shin Guardian. You should read it, and keep this in mind as well: Dos Santos’ best games have […]


  23. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/03/26 at 6:31 AM

    What is Johnson’s tracking back / defensive game like? Also, not sure I like the idea of Beasley marauding forward, and Beckerman to potentially cover – I am still not convinced about his mobility.
    I would rather have in sitting in that pocket in front of the CBs – preferably the width of the box, maximum.


  24. […] « TSG’s Official USA vs. Mexico Preview: On The Road Again […]


  25. Anyone else surprised to added Orozco-Fiscal so late? I’m wondering if there is another injury not being reported. We have 24 players and only 23 can suit up so why bring in Fiscal so late to only sit out the game? Could he be in 23 due to an injury to a defensive player.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/03/26 at 10:21 AM

      Could just be that Klinsmann would rather have another versatile defender who is familiar with Mexico for this game than Brad Davis.


    • Posted by jb on 2013/03/26 at 10:54 AM

      I took it as gamesmanship from Klinsi, for surely the Mexicans remember who scored the goal on them last year. Also, I believe Fiscal has played well as a right back lately, so another quality backup for that spot.


  26. Posted by Jim on 2013/03/26 at 8:39 AM

    Great preview, as always.

    This just in, the Costa Rican protest was shot down. Official win for the U.S.


  27. […] For tactical pieces, it is tough to top The Shin Guardian’s preview piece. Very, very insightful stuff on Gio Dos Santos and the incut, and a comprehensive look…. Great […]


  28. Posted by Kirk on 2013/03/26 at 5:03 PM

    The game that was made for Beckerman was the one he hardly played in. The Costa Rica snow game was played at his speed, PLODDING. Beckerman just doesn’t have the quickness at this level, certainly not against Mexico, and I’m surprised people think he will start against El Tri. I remember the embarrassment of Ricardo Clark being pulled against Ghana, I’d rather not see a replay tonight. And I’d prefer Klinsman stop talking out his posterior about the style of football he wants to play and then putting players on the pitch incapable of achieving it. I think Sacha Kljestan deserves a run out ahead of Beckerman 7 days a week, and deserves to start next to Bradley and not out wide where JK always misuses him. I think a goal scored will be a victory for the U.S. but they lose 2-1 when their legs start lagging late (alliteration). Looking forward to this game more than any USMNT fixture in quite some time.


  29. […] March, Dos Santos was expected to exclusively incut from the right–and continually failed  (Preview – March 2013 – The Dos Santos Incut Option), the past two games has seen Dos Santos float more as he did against the American in Pasadena at […]


  30. […] night. Again, their best attacking play is the Gio Dos Santos incut- and the TSG summary bears a second link (different piece)- but if the US can handle that, they’re in […]


  31. […] The U.S. has scored at least once in each of the last three trips to Azteca and two attacking styles tonight should lead to more scoring.  For a more thorough look at the Mexican team, check out TSG preview. […]


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