Action from the last time the Clint Dempsey (right) and the United States faced off against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Americans won 2-0 on February 11, 2009. (Photo: Mexsport)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The United States' philosophy entering its World Cup qualifying match against archrival Mexico on Tuesday is straight to the point:
Why put off until tomorrow what you can get done today?
Despite Friday’s 3-1 loss at Costa Rica, the Americans can clinch a berth at Brazil 2014 if they defeat Mexico and Honduras does not lose to Panama. If that combination comes to fruition, it will be their seventh consecutive World Cup appearance. They booked a spot at Germany 2006 by besting Mexico here 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."
So, the U.S. comes into the encounter 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," said forward Clint Dempsey, who scored against Costa Rica via a penalty kick. "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 don’t want teams wanting to do you a favor. Ideally, you would like to get it wrapped up as soon as you can."
The Mexicans (1-5-1, 8 points) will try to recover from stinging 2-1 home loss to Honduras on Friday. Head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre was let go only hours after the match, replaced by assistant 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.”
There are some observers who feel El Tri could be vulnerable, but not Dempsey.
"I don't look at it like that," he said. "Mexico is a team that has quality in it. We need to make sure we prepare properly. We know it's going to be a difficult game."
While the Mexicans will be making quick adjustments under the tutelage of a new head coach, the U.S.is also facing a number of challenges.
Klinsmann will be missing four regulars, including central midfielder Michael Bradley, who sprained his left ankle during warm-ups prior to the Costa Rica setback. Defender Matt Besler, midfielder/defender 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 Francisco Torres were called in.
"Missing Michael (Bradley) 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."
To help matters, the Americans will be playing in familiar territory at a stadium in which they have never lost in nine all-time matches (6-3-0), including a 3-0-0 mark against Mexico in qualifiers in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The score of each meeting was 2-0.
"Columbus is one of those venues where you have that 12th man,” noted Dempsey. “The crowd is all behind you. It adds to more excitement and it puts more wind in your sails. It also puts pressure on the other team. They feel the excitement, they're not as confident. It plays to our advantage."