August 10, 2009
By Michael Lewis
TRYING TO MAKE HISTORY
U.S. aims to win in Mexico for first time
History and the conditions say the U.S. doesn't have a snowball's chance in the mid-afternoon Mexican summer sun of pulling off an historic at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Wednesday.
|Tim Howard: "I don't think we need any motivation for the game, We know what's at stake. Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup and do it as quickly as possible."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
But tell that to the Americans who are preparing for the World Cup qualifier. A win -- a rare win -- would push they three points closer to South Africa. A tie wouldn't be too shabby because it would deny their struggling archrivals two precious points. A loss would be par for the course since the U.S. started playing in Mexico City in 1937.
Lifetime, they're 0-18-1 in qualifying there and 0-22-1 overall. So, the task is that enormous, if not next to impossible.
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, a former MetroStar, said if the U.S. could walk out of Azteca with three points "that would be special. We know the history. That would make it that much more special."
The U.S. (3-1-1, 10 points), which bested Mexico in Columbus, Ohio in February, enters the game in second place in the six-team CONCACAF final round group. Fourth-place Mexico (2-3-0, six) desperately needs a victory. The top three teams automatically qualify for next year's World Cup, with the fourth-place team playing the fifth-place team from South America for a spot.
The Mexicans, who snapped a decade-old losing streak on American soil with a 5-0 trouncing of the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at Giants Stadium on July 26, have been boosted by the win. That U.S. team was a relatively inexperienced international team, not anywhere close to the one that coach Bob Bradley will deploy tomorrow, a team that finished second at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
"That's a tough loss for anybody who has a part to play with the U.S. National Team," Howard said. "It
's never esasy, never fun to lose a game, particularly in the final. Yeah, there's disappointment there. But we're not in a position to look back too much."
In fact, one Mexican player predicted a 3-0 victory for the hosts.
"I don't think we need any motivation for the game," Howard said during a conference call on Monday. "We know what's at stake. Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup and do it as quickly as possible. Any extra stuff is just that."
The U.S. must overcome the rarefied air (7,350 feet), arguably the worst smog in the world, and 105,000 partisan supporters -- some say fanatics -- cheering for the home side.
Since the U.S. couldn't train two weeks at altitude, Bradley decided to fly in a less than 24 hours before kickoff.
"The research that we have struck with is if you don't have enough time to acclimatize, which can take 10 days or so, then you going in late is your best bet," Bradley said.