USMNT look for first ever World Cup Qualifying win at Estadio Azteca

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The United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 on Thursday night; however, there is little time to celebrate. The US now set their sights on a daunting task; playing at unbeaten Mexico Sunday night. USA look for first ever World Cup Qualifying win at Estadio Azteca.

Waiting for them is the aforementioned undefeated Mexican side, who are hot off a 3-0 beat down of Honduras Thursday night. This game is massive for both countries. A win for Mexico all but secures instant qualification for the 2018 World Cup, with four games still to play! A draw for USA will help them stay in the top three. Should the US come out on top, they will be history makers!

The Azteca Fortress:

USA sport a 1-8-2 recorded over all at Estadio Azteca. In World Cup qualifiers their record is worse off. The US has never won, lost five times and drew twice while qualifying for World Cups at Azteca. The Mexican dominance at this stadium goes even farther than dominating their rivals north of the border. Mexico has only lost twice at Azteca; winning 39 and drawing seven. (All stats are from a lovely article put out by US Soccer. You can find it here.)

The chances of a US victory don’t look so good when looking at these stats. However, when looking at how they have fared in their last two trips to Azteca things seem on the up. A win in a friendly and a draw in 2014 World Cup qualifying could help the US in this match. Their recent for can also help them.

USA’s recent form:

US’s ability to pass the ball has been the way they’ve gotten good results in their recent World Cup games. The build up play from Nagbe, and Pulisic has been particularly good. Their ability to move off the dribble and create for others has been a major part of the US’s play. Their play allows others to get involved closer to goal as well. The outside backs are able to make wide runs to give more width, and the attackers can make darting runs into the box to try to break down the opposition. The ability to pass comes easy when the work is done by players like Nagbe and Pulisic. Passing lanes open and team goals, like the goals from the T&T game, happen.

The US’s ability to play this way has helped them structurally going forward, and defensively as well. The back line doesn’t have to work as much when the team can keep the ball the way the US has been able to recently. Which is a good thing! The United States back line have been suspect on any type of set piece, or second chance opportunity. The goal allowed in last weeks friendly versus Venezuela shows testament to that. Were it not for poor finishing from Trinidad and Tobago, their previous win might not have been one. The shaky defense will have to do better against Mexico. Hopefully they’ll be up for the Mexico match the way Christian Pulisic is.

The 18-year-old with the team on his back:

Christian Pulisic said that the USMNT will get a win down in Mexico after he scored two to beat Trinidad and Tobago. His confidence is on another level, and it is probably rubbing off on his teammates. The team is playing well heading into what will be the toughest match of the Hex. Now with a confident and hot Pulisic, this side will be ready to write history. Win at Azteca, and Pulisic’s spark of confidence will become a full on fire. There’s no other score that the US will want but 2-0.

Dos A Cero:

Dos a Cero is the legendary score line that the US has beaten Mexico by in the past. Do it at Azteca now, and it will go down in the history books. All previous 2-0 wins have come on American soil. To get this result abroad will have to contain gritty players who can maintain the US’s level of play moving forward; as well as, being tough enough to stop the inevitable Mexico attacks. So who would be able to do this for USA?

Potential lineup:

The US need to maintain their attacking ability from last match while adding better shape for the Mexican attack. A change in formation and some personnel will help the american chances.

Howard; Villafana, Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin; Acosta, Bradley; Nagbe, Pulisic, Bedoya; Altidore.
Subs: Guzan, Gonzalez, Besler, McCarty, Johnson, Wood, Dempsey.

This lineup may look good for some, and infuriate others. However you feel about it these 11 players give the US what they need to get a win at Azteca. Keeping the back line the same will help keep constancy, and present a situation to prove themselves on wha twill be the biggest stage that isn’t the actual World Cup. The formation change allows Bradley to be the deep-lying number six to help control possession, and brings in Acosta to be the ball winning, spark plug of a number eight that he is. Bedoya’s entry on the right give US a gritty player who can produce a good cross, and can make helpful defensive runs. Nagbe and Pulisic will continue to be the bulk of the offensive spark for this team. Altidore keeps his spot due to his ability to be a target as well as his great passing ability.

This could be the team that finally ins a World Cup Qualifier at Azteca. Even if it’s a long shot, there is a chance this could be the time!

Where USMNT stand before Azteca:

USA has made some good strides in their last three Qualifiers. Now with five to play, they are sitting the third and final automatic qualifying spot. While this is good, Panama and Honduras are within touching distance of the spot. They really need to take points from the rest of their qualifiers, starting with Mexico.

 

Where USMNT stand after Azteca:

A draw would be an absolutely fantastic result. Eight points should be enough to hold one of the three qualifying spots. A win would give the US 10 points and would be the best World Cup Qualifying event of all time! A first ever win at Mexico; as well as, moving to second place in the Hex standings. A loss would create a really rocky situation for the last four qualifying games.

The US take on Mexico at 8:30 PM EST on FS1. This is the biggest national soccer game for USA apart from the World Cup games. Tune in, and hopefully witness a historic event for the USMNT.

 

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Follow me on twitter @TGing21 for Soccer Twitter fun! Coming soon: A recap of how USA did at Azteca, A look at the Union’s recent defensive lapse and a look at how the Union will play at the start of their US Open Cup play. Until then, peace out!

 

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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