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February 11, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Previewing “La Guerra Fria”

AKA US-Mexico. Good collection of stuff from Tobias Lopez of Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Yes, the World Cup remains the pinnacle of success for international soccer.

But when it comes to rivalries, the United States and Mexico’s bitter disdain equals the intensity of any games they’ll play at the quadrennial world championships.

So even though tonight’s 6 p.m. (4 PST) matchup on ESPN2 and Univision is only the first step in the final 10-game march to South Africa in 2010, the atmosphere, desire and level of competition will be just as intense as in any game either nation might play next year.

The United States and Mexico open the final round of regional qualifying for next summer’s World Cup, and here’s a look at tonight’s showdown at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio:

Players to watch

Landon Donovan: The U.S. captain had what could be a career-defining moment by joining Germany’s Bayern Munich in January. Donovan twice played and then left Germany to return to the safe haven of Major League Soccer. This World Cup cycle truly belongs to Donovan, and he can prove so with a dominant performance tonight.

Oguchi Onyewu: The massive 6-foot-5 centerback must prove he can be the central organizer in the U.S. defense. Like Donovan, this cycle is his to prove that he’s the player capable of providing the grit and leadership in the American backline.

Tim Howard: The United States has been blessed with goalkeeping brilliance, and now Howard must carry the torch. A brilliant performance by Howard can turn a home draw into a victory and a road loss into a tie. He is far superior to the Mexican goalkeeping corps, but must prove it in vital matches such as tonight’s.

By the numbers

1 – Player on the U.S. roster (Jose Torres of Longview) playing professionally in Mexico.

7 – Players on the Mexico roster playing in Europe.

8 – Players on the U.S. roster playing in MLS.

11 – Players on the U.S. roster playing in Europe.

17 – Players on the Mexico roster playing in Mexico.

43 – Years (1937-1980) Mexico went undefeated against the United States for a 21-0-3 record.

54- Meetings between the two nations. Mexico holds a 29-15-10 all-time record in the series. However, the United States is 8-0-2 in the past 10 matches played on U.S. soil.

90 – Minutes it took to sell out the match at Crew Stadium.

Why tonight matters

The road is a nasty place No professional athlete understands home-field advantage more than an American soccer player. On the road, American players have been pelted with bags of urine or endured chants of “Osama, Osama” following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Other road environments feature poorly lighted/maintained fields and 3 a.m. wake-up calls from opposing fans.

Voodoo – A Mexican newspaper and Blockbuster Video teamed up to pass out voodoo dolls to help end the Mexican drought in the United States. Mexico hasn’t won on U.S. soil since March 13, 1999. Even though the promotion is meant as a light-hearted goof, it still brings to light the frustration of the Mexican soccer fans who have seen “El Tri” fall behind the United States in competitive matters this decade.

Still something to prove – The United States has controlled the rivalry this decade, including eliminating Mexico from the 2002 World Cup, but the Americans are still viewed as second tier on the international stage and in European soccer circles. “Yes, that is true. Players are always trying to prove how much progress we’ve made in the United States,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “They’ve realized that accomplishments in the United States don’t count for much in Europe. That feeling exists and is certainly part of the motivation.”

World Cup 2010 qualifying

The format: The six final teams from North/Central America and the Caribbean play a 10-game round-robin series. All teams meet at home and away with the top 3 teams claiming automatic berths into the South Africa 2010 World Cup. The fourth finisher qualifies for a play-in series against the fifth-place finisher from South America’s qualifying group.

The qualifying schedule

Today: USA vs. Mexico; Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

March 28: USA at El Salvador; Estadio Cuscatlan, San Salvador

April 1: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago; LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.

June 3: USA at Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica

June 6: USA vs. Honduras; TBD

Aug. 12: USA at Mexico; TBD

Sept. 5: USA vs. El Salvador; TBD

Sept. 9: USA at Trinidad & Tobago; TBD

Oct. 10: USA at. Honduras; TBD

Oct. 14: USA vs. Costa Rica; TBD




Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England); Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennais, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland, Denmark), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege, Belgium), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC); Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca, Mexico); Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Xerez CD, Spain), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF, Sweden), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC, England), Landon Donovan (Bayern Munich, Germany).


Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jose de Jesus Corona (Tecos); Defenders: Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart, Germany), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona, Spain), Aaron Galindo (Guadalajara), Leobardo Lopez (Pachuca); Midfielders: Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul), Pavel Pardo (America), Leandro Augusto (Pumas), Luis Perez (Monterrey), Israel Martinez (San Luis), Antonio Naelson (Toluca); Forwards: Alberto Medina (Guadalajara), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham, England), Matias Vuoso (Santos), Carlos Ochoa (Guadalajara), Nery Castillo (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal, Spain), Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruna, Spain)


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