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U.S. looks forward to Azteca experience
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 By Michael Lewis

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- After securing three vital points in a World Cup qualifying win Friday night, the pressure is off the United States when it visits Mexico on Tuesday.

The Americans (1-0-1, three points) recorded a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a snowstorm in Commerce City, Colo. So, whatever points they can pick up at the Azteca would be a bonus.

The Mexicans (0-2-0, two points), who have struggled in their opening two CONCACAF hexagonal round matches, need a win to keep pace in the group.

Given what Mexican Football Federation representatives have accomplished over the past two years on the international stage, there are great expectations. Their achievements include earning an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, capturing the 2011 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and finishing third in the FIFA U-20 World Cup the same summer, plus winning the 2009 and 2011 editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The U.S. sees this as an opportunity to steal a point or even three.

"The pressure is on them," said U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley. "At a certain point there is a chance the crowd could turn on them and so we have to understand they will have big pressure to come out and play a good game from the start and we have to know how to deal with that."

Added U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann: "I think it's one of those games that you're hungry for. I want them to go on the field and be confident and give them a real game. We want to win here. This is our goal."

A loss could heap even more of a burden on Mexican head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, despite his team's accomplishments the past several years.

"This is their life," said U.S. striker Herculez Gomez, who performs for CONCACAF Champions League semifinalist Santos Laguna in Mexico. "There is no Hollywood here. There is no N.F.L. There is no M.L.B., no N.B.A., Nascar, N.H.L., any of that. It's football. They breathe and die this."

The Americans never have won a qualifying match at the Azteca Stadium or in Mexico; they are 0-1-13 in qualifying and 1-1-23 overall in Mexico. They did pull off a major upset with a scoreless draw in a 1997 qualifier and won an international friendly there, 1-0, last August.

"It's a huge game," Klinsmann said. "When you have the opportunity to come to Mexico City and play at a sold out Azteca Stadium with 110,000 people - that is what you want to experience. It's a special game, a big rivalry. We expect a difficult game, an exciting game and we are very confident".

Playing at Azteca is always difficult for opponents, due to its altitude, smog and fans. U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who filled in admirably at left back on Friday night, said altitude was the biggest factor at the stadium.

"The first 20 minutes are always the worst," he said. "You can't breathe, you get that dry feeling in your throat. That's always difficult. And obviously the guys that come off the bench, that come on to the game, that first two or three minutes you can't breathe."

The U.S. will be without central midfielder Jermaine Jones, who sprained his left ankle against Costa Rica. Klinsmann's options include Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman and Sacha Kljestan to partner with Bradley.

 
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