On the eve of another epic showdown between Mexico and the United States, Rafa (@mexicanfutcom) and Raul (@thecolorfulkit) decided to take their best shot at predicting Mexico’s starting lineup, with Raul going a step further and including his prediction for the United States. So without further ado.
Is this the best Mexico national team squad to travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the United States? Captain Rafael Marquez seems to think so. Coach Juan Carlos Osorio didn’t hold back in his squad selection for this match, and with 13 players featuring in European sides, it is fair to say this is the strongest Mexico has to offer.
Is this the most talented Mexico squad to face the USMNT in Columbus?— The Colorful Kit (@TheColorfulKit) November 10, 2016
But predicting a Juan Carlos Osorio starting lineup can prove to be a tough task, not least a starting formation. In Mexico’s last match against the United States, then interim manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti surprised most by fielding three strikers. After Mexico’s 3-2 victory, Juan Carlos Osorio went on to say the win showed elements of what his style of play would be with the Mexico national team.
With that in mind, could that mean we could see something similar on Friday? Offensively speaking, at least, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez looks to be a given in the starting lineup, but there seems to be little agreement of who will partner him on the attack. If in fact Mexico play a 4-3-3, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a three forward formation with Chicharito, Raul Jimenez/Carlos Vela, and Giovani dos Santos.
On the defensive end, the idea of Carlos Salcedo as a “false-right-back” is something that shouldn’t surprise anybody. Salcedo has been doing things well in that position for Fiorentina, and considering Mexico’s past set-piece vulnerabilities against the United States, it would make complete sense to start him on the right. Osorio already did something similar away to Honduras when Oswaldo Alanis started as left-back in Mexico’s 2-0 win in San Pedro Sula.
That said, here is how I think Mexico will line up against the Stars and Stripes.
GK: Howard vs Talavera
Timmy Howard is coming into the game on a strong season for his club, Colorado Rapids. Look for him to start in net for Jurgen on Friday. Mexico's keeper situation is always fluid. Since JCO likes to be very particular in his selections, I expect Talavera to get the start. JCO thinks Talavera is better in the air and has mentioned the US is deadly on set pieces. He has had shaky performances for Mexico recently but looks to be the preferred option. Who knows, maybe he gives Memo a half and Talavera a half.....
DF: Johnson/Brooks/Gonzalez/Yedlin vs Layun/Moreno/Reyes/Salcedo
It's a little bit harder to pick who has the advantage in defense going into the game on Friday. Klinsmann will be missing veteran Geoff Cameron for the game. Mexico will be at full strength. I think each has squad has two superior players on the back line. I would take Layun/Moreno but Brooks/Yedlin for my other spots. Reyes has only recently started to play well for Espanyol. He has been inconsistent this year for club and country. Salcedo is in an unfamiliar position and learning it in a new county (Italy). Yedlin will need to pick his spots going forward as he has to contend with Gio/Tecatito/Lozano on his side of the field. Look for the US to try and get a set piece to the heads of Gonzalez or Brooks. Cliche but Mexico struggle on set pieces.
MF: Bradley/Kljestan/Bedoya/Jones vs Rafa/HH/Guardado
America's midfield is playing well for their clubs. Bradley is having a bounce back season at Toronto, Kljestan is continuing his great play at NYRB. Mexico's midfield 3 (or at least my predicted starters) have been inconsistent. Rafa just went through a rough season at Atlas and Herrera has been inconsistent at Porto. It might come down to the play of Rafa vs Jones. While playing for the US, Jermaine Jones has a tendency to push too much and get caught out of position. El Kaiser is, well, he's getting up there in age. He can spray the ball all over the field but will struggle to get back on counter attacks or stay with speedy players. He will need to be supported defensively for him not to be a liability on the field.
FW: Altidore/Wood vs Tecatito/Gio/Chicharito
Altidore is finally healthy and scoring goals. Wood is playing well in Germany. That being said, I think Mexico have the advantage in the attack. This game may very well come to the manager's substitutions. If Pulisic starts on the bench, he will definitely be an asset for JK in the second half. At the same time, JCO will have Lozano or Vela or Raul Jimenez at his disposal. Juan Carlos Osorio has more weapons at his disposal but how will he use them?
Many have said this is the most talented team Mexico has ever had. I would tend to agree with that or at the very least, agree this is Mexico's strongest squad in a long time. But this game is in Columbus. El Tri's least favorite place to play besides the round of 16 at a World Cup. Do they have what it takes to break the losing streak? Absolutely. But they've always had the talent to win in Columbus. Osorio is right about this game. It's more mental than physical. It's up to him to get a great performance from his squad.