The friendly matches between the United States and Mexico are never simple friendlies and are always intense, but there's something that feels a little less intense about this one. Perhaps it's because of the timing. We're not that far removed from the final of the 2011 Gold Cup, in which El Tri defeated the USA definitively. While the USMNT got off to the better start, the better team won. We know who the better team is. So closely removed from a major final, there aren't actually any bragging rights on the line.
Additionally, the game is missing each team's biggest star - at least arguably. 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez is out with a concussion, while Clint Dempsey is out most likely because him and his team requested that he not be called up. Those absences make the occasion a little less special, but there's still plenty of interesting stuff at stake here.
First of all, it's the first match as USMNT manager for Jurgen Klinsmann, who has replaced the recently fired Bob Bradley. Because he was not able to call in all of the players he wanted and he's only had the job for a couple of weeks, it would be unfair to seriously judge Klinsmann on anything in this performance. However, how he sets up his team and what players he chooses to play will be interesting.
If you're a fan of the United States, you're going to find more answers about Klinsmann and the state of your team when they take on Belgium in a month. Klinsmann will be allowed to call in European-based players and will have had time watching all of them play for their clubs. This is simply a run-out for these guys. A chance to impress the coach and get him to take them to Belgium, where the real fight for places in competitive fixtures will begin.
For Mexico, there's also a serious fight going on for places. Though Chicharito is locked into a starting role up top, the fringes of the Mexico team are always up for grabs in a country with such a deep player pool. With Aldo de Nigris also out due to injury, Omar Arellano and Oribe Peralta are likely fighting for a roster spot once World Cup qualifying begins. Both are likely to have their shot on Wednesday night, and both will need to take it.
At the fullback spots, there's also a likely battle brewing. Efrain Juarez and Carlos Salcido played well at the Gold Cup, but it would be unfair for them to be locked into the starting XI. Both Jose Torres Nilo and Paul Aguilar are in absolutely fantastic form in the Mexican Primera over the last couple of years, and both are very deserving of starting places if Juarez and Salcido are not playing regularly or not playing well for their club teams over in Europe.
Elsewhere, the squad is locked down. Maza and Moreno, recently transferred to Stuttgart and Espanyol, respectably, are the men in the middle. Cruz Azul's center of Torrado and Castro should keep Jesus Zavala out of the starting lineup for the time being. And then there's the key men - the guys who make up the band of three behind the striker. It would take a true act of god for Pablo Barrera, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado to lose their spots at this point. They are Mexico's best players, and they are the likely reason that the United States is going to be in some trouble on Wednesday night.
The match kicks off at 9:00 pm ET from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It can be seen on ESPN2, ESPN3.com and Univision in the United States.