September 10, 2013
By Michael Lewis
ITCHING FOR A CLINCHING
USA wants to book a spot in Brazil now and not later
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The United States' philosophy entering Tuesday night's World Cup qualifying match against archrival Mexico is straight to the point:
|Clint Dempsey: "You don't want to be waiting until the last game. You donít want teams wanting to do you a favor. Ideally, you would like to get it wrapped up as soon as you can."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Why wait until tomorrow when you can get it done today?
Despite the 3-1 defeat at Costa Rica on Friday, the Americans still can clinch a berth at Brazil 2014 if they defeat Mexico in a CONCACAF hexagonal confrontation between these two archrivals. A victory, combined with a Honduran win or tie over Panama, will propel them to their seventh consecutive World Cup appearance. They booked a spot at Germany 2006 by besting Mexico here, 2-0, in 2005.
"We gave up an opportunity in Costa Rica to get three points," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told a press conference Monday. "It made us upset. It hangs a little bit in our stomach because you do not want to wait for anything. You want to do it in the next possible occasion. Knowing what Mexico is going through, but we have to look at purely at our end. We've got to secure our points to make sure nobody's getting nervous. We want to make sure from the first second on we're spot on."
So, the U.S. enters the 8 p.m. ET game at Columbus Crew Stadium with a sense of urgency.
"You want to get points as soon as possible, but the most important thing is that we get to the World Cup," forward Clint Dempsey said. "That's what our goal is. It doesn't matter how we do it. You don't want to be waiting until the last game. You donít want teams wanting to do you a favor. Ideally, you would like to get it wrapped up as soon as you can."
The Mexicans (1-1-5, eight points) enter the match limping after a stunning 2-1 home loss to Honduras Friday. Coach Jose Manuel de la Torre was fired only hours after the match, replaced by assistant coach Luis Fernando Tena, who guided El Tri to the Olympic gold medal 13 months ago.
"Any time there is a change on the managerial side, it usually triggers a positive response," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "Mexico's a heck of a team. They can frighten the life out of you. They're that talented. Whatever people are saying what they are going through right now, I don't buy it. There are some amazing players.Ē
There are some observers who feel El Tri is a vulnerable side.
"I don't look at it like that," Dempsey said. "Mexico is a team that has quality in it. We need to make sure we prepare properly. Every game at home is a must win game. You need to get those points at home if we have any hopes of qualifying for a World Cup, so we won't treat it any different than that. We need to get as many points as possible to make that happen. We know it's going to be a difficult game."
While the struggling Mexicans have plenty of their own problems, the Americans face a number of challenges themselves.
Klinsmann will be missing four regulars, including central midfielder Michael Bradley, who sprained his left ankle during pre-game warm-ups prior to Costa Rica loss. Defender Matt Besler, midfielder Geoff Cameron and forward Jozy Altidore are sidelined with yellow-card suspensions. In their absence, defender Clarence Goodson and midfielders Brad Davis, Joe Corona and Jose Torres were called in.
Bradley, who is expected to be replaced by Kyle Beckerman, has proven to be vital to the Americans' success with his vision, ball-winning ability and an uncanny knack to control the pace of the game.
"Missing Michael is not easy because he has developed into a real leader, with a Clint, with a Tim Howard, with a Jermaine Jones," Klinsmann said. "But with the challenges with the roster, with the availability, with yellow cards [the last two years], we always know how to correct things. We'll find way to balance it out. We'll find way to make sure the guys stepping on the field and guys sitting on the bench are giving everything they have. I think we have enough quality in the group to make things happen."
The Americans will be playing in familiar territory at the stadium, where they have never lost in nine matches (6-0-3). They have forged a 5-0-2 qualifying record, including a 3-0-0 mark against Mexico in qualifiers in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The score of each encounter was 2-0.
"It's coming to a place where you have a pro-American crowd," Dempsey said. "When I first started out with the National Team, you would go to stadiums and you thought you were playing in another country because there were more fans for the other team than for you. Columbus is one of those venues where you have that 12th man. The crowd is all behind you. It adds to more excitement and it puts more wind in your sails. Tt also puts pressure on the other team. They feel the excitement, they're not as confident. It plays to our advantage."
Howard could not believe the noise fans have generated at the stadium.
"It's one of probably three or four venues in America where we have just an incredible advantage," he said. "It just gets rocking. It's hard to hear. The other night in Costa Rica was one of the most incredible atmospheres that I ever heard. I couldn't here myself think, let alone talk to my defenders. That's what we need to have and this is one venue where you have it."