USMNT take on rivals Mexico at the MAPFRE Stadium in a crunch soccer World Cup 2018 qualifying fixture this weekend (7.45pm ET Friday, Fox Sports 1).
The CONCACAF qualification campaign has now reached its final stage, with the United States and Mexico among the six teams still in contention for a place in the finals (the others are Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago).
Every side will play each other home and away over the next 11 months, with the top three teams advancing automatically to the tournament in Russia in two years’ time. The fourth-placed outfit will face a nation from Asia in an inter-confederation play-off.
The United States qualified for the Hexagonal after finishing top of a group containing Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the fourth round of the process. Jurgen Klinsmann’s charges did not get off to the best of starts, amassing just four points from the first nine available, but they grew stronger as time wore on and triumphed in each of their last three encounters in emphatic fashion. The United States also exceeded expectations in the Copa America Centenario on home soil this summer, reaching the semi-finals before being knocked out by a rampant Argentina. USMNT will be in confident mood as they attempt to reach their eighth consecutive World Cup and eleventh of all time.
Mexico also advanced to the Hexagonal as group winners, taking 16 points from their six meetings with Honduras, Canada and El Salvador. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio (pictured) deserves great credit for guiding El Tri through to the final stage of qualification with a minimum of fuss. However the former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls boss – who was also assistant coach at Manchester City between 2001 and 2005 – finds himself under pressure following Mexico’s embarrassing Copa America Centenario exit, which saw them thrashed 7-0 by eventual champions Chile in the last eight. There is work to be done for Osorio and his players to redeem themselves after such a debacle, but three wins and a draw since the competition at least represents a small step in the right direction.
Klinsmann’s 26-man squad features talented youngsters Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old winger who has been extremely impressive for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga this term, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Julian Green. The ex-Germany manager has already confirmed that veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard will start between the sticks ahead of Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough and Ethan Horvath. Fellow experienced heads Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore may also be called upon from the first whistle. Kyle Beckerman, Geoff Cameron and Chris Wondolowski will all miss out through injury.
Mexico’s group of players includes LA Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos, as well as a number of other familiar faces. These include Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier Hernandez, Porto midfielder Hector Herrera, Real Sociedad frontman Carlos Vela, PSV’s Andres Guardado, 37-year-old Atlas centre-back Rafael Marquez and Granada goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. The U.S. will also have to be wary of the threat provided by younger prospects like Hirving Lozano, Orbelin Pineda, Jurgen Damm and Carlos Salcedo.
Our Preview’s USA vs Mexico Betting Predictions & Picks
This is likely to be tight affair between two teams who will probably be more concerned with not losing their first game in the Hexagonal than winning it. This preview believes that goals could therefore be at a premium at the MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, particularly as nerves may play a part early on. That thought is influencing our betting picks’ predictions with the United States legal offshore sportsbooks: On balance, then, it could be worth backing Klinsmann’s United States to win this matchup and pick up a 1-0 victory against Osorio’s Mexico.