It's never easy playing on your rival's home field. When the Portland Timbers play against the Seattle Sounders at CentruyLink Field it's a hostile environment and vice versa. I'm sure clubs around the world experience this. But for the USA - Mexico rivalry I'm not sure there's anything more visceral, more humanizing, or more overtly hostile than playing in Estadio Azteca.
That said, there's hope for an actual result this time around. Despite the USA's slow start to the Hexagonal against Honduras, and the fact that they've only ever won once in Mexico City. Here's why:
Mexico Has Not Won Yet in the Hexagonal
There's a lot of pressure on Mexico to win tomorrow night. Not only because it's the big bad USA and all the political/cultural implications that that match comes with, but also because they've yet to win a single game in the Hexagonal. First they drew Jamaica at home and then they drew Honduras away from home. Those two results mean that Mexico is currently sitting near the bottom of the standings. Not good for the supposed CONCACAF power house.
Now, some will see this as an opportunity for Mexico to use that kind of pressure to really ramp up their game and crush the USMNT, but I'm not so sure. For all the "drama" that was supposedly affecting the USMNT last week, my guess is that the pressure going on in Mexico is much worse. The combination of needing to win at home, needing to win three points, needing to prove they are the dominant team in CONCACAF, and the need to beat the USA could prove to be a bit much.
The USMNT Earned Their First Win at Estadio Azteca
Oddly enough, the reverse is seemingly true for the USMNT. While there's still a considerable amount of pressure, one huge weight was lifted off their shoulders last year on April 15th as the team won 1-nil in Mexico City. It was the first time that had ever happened.
For far too long team USA would head to Mexico under the headlines and presumption that they would be coming home defeated. It was written into the storybooks (and probably Mexico City newspaper headlines) before the match even kicked off. Today, with Mexico struggling and the USA having earned their first win, even if it was just a friendly, expect the team to have a bit more confidence.
Altitude No Longer An Advantage
US Soccer chose a wise location for its match last Friday. While the weather had other ideas and it almost backfired on the USMNT multiple times, the fact is that the team has played and trained under altitude for the better part of a week now. One of the primary issues going into Estadio Azteca has always been that the USA players had to fly from all over the world, get minimal training time with their squad, and then be forced to play under an altitude condition that is not conducive to 90 minutes of play.
While I doubt the effects will be erased entirely, expect the USMNT to fare a bit better given their previous training and match in Denver.
Jurgen Klinsmann Has Yet to Lose to Mexico
Throughout his playing and coaching career, Klinsmann has met Mexico six times and in those six games he has a 3-0-3 record. Three wins, and three draws. Not a single loss to count against him. Obviously there's a lot at play here, but the simple fact remains: since taking over for Bob Bradley as the USMNT head coach, Mexico has not won against the USA. Those with astute memories will recall that in 2011 the USMNT held Mexico to a 1-1 draw and then in 2012 they beat Mexico 1-nil. While it might be a bit premature to call the game for the USMNT based on this statistic, it sure does provide a bit of confidence leading up to it.
What do you think of tomorrow's match against Mexico? is there any hope in earning 3 points? 1 point?