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Mexico vs. United States, 2018 World Cup Qualifying: What to watch for

Mexico v United States: 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Qualifier Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

The big game is finally here. Mexico travel to Columbus, Ohio take take on rivals United States in the opening game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal.

Here is what to watch for in Mexico’s “Clásico” against the United States.

What to watch for:

What Juan Carlos Osorio will we see? - Make no mistake, this is the biggest game in Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexico national team career. The big question heading into this match is of which Juan Carlos Osorio will we see? Will we see the methodical Juan Carlos Osorio that went into Honduras and earned Mexico their first win in 22 years, or the one that went toe-to-toe with Chile only to suffer his most lopsided defeat as manager?

While we can be fairly sure Osorio will make a number of changes to his starting line-up, will he hold the same principles in his selection process as he did before that 7-0 defeat? Chile obviously have much more talent than the United States, but that is somehow offset by the immense magnitude of this game. Tactically at least, will he show the United States some degree of respect, or will he take another risk like he did that June afternoon in Northern California?

The bottom line is Juan Carlos Osorio is playing for his job on Friday. There is little room for error here, and how Mexico come out on Friday will be telling about the Colombian manager.

The Pulisic effect - If you are a USMNT fan, you are wondering where a guy like Christian Pulisic was a few years ago. As a general fan of the sport, it would be foolish not to admit that the USMNT has grown in lenghts. But one thing they always seemed to be lacking was depth on the wing.

When Julian Green, then 19 years old, made the 2014 World Cup roster, Jurgen Klinsmann had more than his share of doubters. On the surface, however, it made complete sense. Who else did the United States have in Green’s characteristics?

Now, two years later, the United States have the answer. Jurgen Klinsmann will no doubt have seen the tape, and Christian Pulisic should be a no-brainer against Mexico. Part of that is because El Tri suffer tracking back and defending the wings. In the Copa America Centenario, Chile took complete advantage of Hirving Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona to push their full-backs forward and release the creativity of Alexis Sanchez and Edson Puch. To a lesser extent, even New Zealand did that a few weeks ago against El Tri when Lozano failed to track back, allowing the the opposition a free play down the left flank that finished in a goal.

Pulisic is a special player, who can radically improve the potential of this United States team on the wing. It’s for exactly that reason Mexico should be cautious about the Borussia Dortmund youngster.

“Dos a cero” - When it comes to World Cup qualifiers in the Buckeye State, all the history is with the United States. You’ve probably read this all week. The last four Mexico visits to Columbus, Ohio have ended in 2-0 defeat.

Beyond that, however, only three of the last ten World Cup qualifiers between these two teams have had more than three goals. In that respect, it is not like either team has been completely dominant over the other.

That’s relevant here because if El Tri can get over the psychological hunch of the “dos a cero”, it could be a closer game than most people expect. In fact, Juan Carlos Osorio seems to relish these scenarios. Osorio has an early record of spoiling the CONCACAF house party, earning Mexico a historic win in San Pedro Sula and their first victory in Canadian soil in 23 years. A win in Columbus would represent Mexico their first three points in World Cup qualifiers in the U.S. in 44 years.