HOUSTON - JUNE 22: Pablo Barrera #7 of Mexico puts a shot on goal against Honduras in the first half at Reliant Stadium on June 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The United States has the players to hang with a more talented Mexico side and a gameplan that can stifle what El Tri do best, but there is one area of the pitch where they appear to have an inherent advantage, regardless of how the USA deploys their players. On El Tri's right side of the pitch and the USMNT's left, Pablo Barrera and Efrain Juarez have a chance to be extremely effective going forward against Eric Lichaj and whoever the United States plays at left wing.
All of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Alejandro Bedoya have the possibility of being played in that left wing spot, but all of them have one thing in common: They're not true left wingers. None of them resembles DaMarcus Beasley. They are all right-footed and they will all look to cut in from the left into the center of the pitch. If the United States loses possession when the left winger is in the center of the pitch, Mexico could have a great opportunity to counter-attack.
All three of those players have proven that they have a willingness to get back on defense and try to win the ball back for their team, but that requires them to be in a certain position. It's not an indictment on the intelligence or work rate of any of those players if they are caught in the middle of the pitch, the ball is lost, and Juarez goes streaking down the right flank unopposed. It's just a flaw of the system that Bradley is willing to accept. All systems have flaws.
In an ideal world, at least one where Andres Guardado has a sprained ankle and can't start, Bob Bradley would have a Park Ji-Sung type of player to play on his left wing. That player would keep Juarez at bay while helping Lichaj on Barrera. Unfortunately, that player doesn't exist for the United States. How a country of 310 million people who puts such an emphasis on work rate, fitness, and getting back on defense from attacking positions in all of their sports can't produce a Park Ji-Sung is absolutely astonishing, but that's another debate for another day.
Bradley does not have that player, and unless he's going to make some adjustment to counter El Tri, they should be able to have a field day down the right. Lichaj hasn't been poor in any of his games by any stretch of the imagination, but he hasn't been great either. He's an average defender at this point in his career, and Barrera has abused just about everyone he's played against in a Mexico shirt this year. He's going to be able to get around Lichaj, more than once.
The United States will pack the midfield and make life hard for Giovani dos Santos and if Guardado doesn't play, Steve Cherundolo will like his matchup on his right and Mexico's left. Javier Hernandez has the pace to get by the American defenders, but they will be playing a reasonably deep line and Carlos Bocanegra's positioning is fantastic. Additionally, he'll be out-matched in the air. Mexico have a big advantage down their right hand side, though, and it will be interesting to see what the United States do to try and counter that.