USMNT Preview, El Tri, pre-Brazil edition

Jamie Sabau

I love the United States-Mexico rivalry. It’s a full-blown border war with geopolitical noise like no other in the world (feel free to dispute this in the comments). We’re enjoying dominance on the teeter-totter these days, and I can faintly imagine clinging to the mount high in the air, despite suffering mightily after a good start almost 3 years ago. I was on the road in the hinterlands of Coos Bay, Oregon, and I reveled in our profound dominance through Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley…and Freddy Adu. It’s not that long ago, and that day was miserable despite wonderful accommodations.

It all went to hell in a hand basket after an injury to Steve Cherundolo. The Mayor of Hannover was a true cornerstone for the Yanks in defense. He will be missed. That said, we can take heart in the fact that our defensive left will not be abused like it was back in 2011 (see all 4 el Tri goals). No gnashing of teeth about the comparative merits of Beasley and Fabian Johnson will ever compare to the weak link on that day.

On Wednesday, we won’t have Jonathan Bornstein or Freddy Adu anywhere near Glendale. In fact, we’ll be minus our top 2 at left back, and yet, we’ll have a more impervious backline than we did on that day. We’ll also have useful creative talent in the XI and on the bench so we’ll be in good hands for a non-international date friendly between the North American soccer geopolitical foils that brought you la Guerra Fría and cups of vomit/excrement from the 3rd-5th decks. Here’s what I’m scrutinizing.

1. Whose included (and I’m excited without any discernible ability to obfuscate):

- DeAndre Yedlin: The Mayor of Hannover had a long, long run riddled with consistent quality without the potential of Yedlin, and yet, I think most of us wish Cherundolo’s knees had waited another year to go to pot. In MLS, Yedlin has the raw ability to play high up the field, usefully attack, and recover quickly because he’s made of springs. A smaller, faster version of Tony Sanneh? I’m hopeful.

- Brad Davis: Speaking of Adu, no one else has similar ability to vex with service as Brad Davis. He will never claim to be as dynamic, but he’s earned his stripes as a pro to the point that he can add the killer delivery without being a liability while searching for the moment. I think most tourists heading south this summer are rooting for Davis to earn his ticket Wednesday.

- Julian Green. See pollyannish homerism here. But seriously, this guy might be the Wild Stallyns of American Soccer. He’s pretty quick, two footed, but unproven. I predict he’ll get his first taste of the deliberate, frustrated Mexican elbow in the 75th minute. A good performance Wednesday will get him a ticket…with a boatload of controversy.

2. Whose omitted (and I’m sad).

- Carlos Bocanegra: 4 games, albeit 3 with a full contingent of 11 players- Boca’s marshalling a youthful defense and a youthful team to some impressive results. Charley Blackmouth is a guy I want deep on the bench. He’s done the Tour de Europe, won his share of set piece goals by head, gut, and shoulder; and can provide a level of experience tantamount to the Mexicutioner on the back line. There’s not a player in the pool who can offer more in terms of experience than Carlos Bocanegra. We’ve played a lot of desperate defense in our best moments.

Honestly, I see him as a more experienced version of Parkhurst who is buried on the depth chart solely due to his affiliation with Rangers. Given my druthers, give me Bocanegra based on overall experience. Centerback or Leftback in a pinch.

- Benny Feilhaber. He’s led a US club to victory against Messi’s Argentine Youth club. He’s fitter than he’s ever been. He’s experienced. He’s silky smooth. I have to re-state: fit. He’s embraced American professionalism to the point that he’s embraced his weakness as a player. He’s clearly more passionate than he ever has been in his career, and he possesses the unique ability to make the game-changing play with his technical nous. If I were to be given a wildcard for anyone on the roster, Feilhaber’s my guy. He's a natural when you need a calm charge. God, how I miss South Africa and Jozy scoring goals.

I’ll touch on treks to other continents in the future; it’s a blast. I was at Loftus Versfeld that night, and the agony and ecstasy was delicious. I think it’s fair to say most of us weren’t as thrilled as when we landed on the moon first. Think I’m wrong? Debate it with Andres Cantor. I still get misty. I always will. So stupid…

Anyway, Feilhaber and Bocanegra were on the pitch that night. They’re winners. They’re experienced. They have a proven track record of massive success in the Southern Hemisphere. They played on a team that did this. I still get misty.

So we’re playing Mexico again. Fabian will test our wings. They’ll have a strongly stocked club ready to best our early season domestic Yanks. It’ll be a great litmus test of the MLS and our repatriates. CONCACAF Champions league may have been a failure, but economics matter less at the international level. It will be a good test before we go south this summer, and how could I pick anything other than a dos a cero for los Estados Unidos with goals for Dempsey and Donovan for old times' sake.

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