It’s considered one of the best football rivalries in the world today and with good reason: the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico simply don’t like each other as they do battle every year for regional supremacy. But critical World Cup qualifying points are also on the line on Friday.
For many years Mexico was the undisputed leader of the CONCACAF region, but since the turn of the century the USA has made a legitimate case to unseat El Tri. Just this past summer, the USA beat Mexico in two finals — the Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup — and now they get to try it again in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The match means so much that the USA once again selected the state of Ohio as host in order to guarantee a home-field advantage. Mexico sits in first place (14 points) and the USA in second place (11 points) after six of the 14 qualifiers, and it’s still early enough that these points matter beyond the rivalry bragging rights. Both teams have work to do to clinch one of the direct tickets to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
WATCH: USA vs. Mexico on fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
Both teams are facing pressure in this game. Mexico coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino could see the country’s fans turn against him if he suffers the ignominy of dropping a third straight match to the Americans. Meanwhile, the USMNT doesn’t want to drop more home points for fear of complicating qualifying. It is also feeling slighted by its rival.
“When you hear things coming out from their camp that we want to be them … it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico,” said U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter. “The two victories in the summer didn’t do a lot to get that, and we’re going to have to do it [Friday] with our play on the field.
“It’s about who can stay calm but still compete at the 100 percent level. That’s the trick. There’s a line you don’t want to cross, but you have to get to that line to be successful.”
DECOURCY: Rivalry means everything in USA vs. Mexico
How to watch USA vs. Mexico
USA vs. Mexico will air on ESPN2 (English), and Univision and TUDN (Spanish) with all three channels streaming on fuboTV. New subscribers can get a free 7-day trial to the streaming service.
The match will be held at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, the home of Major League Soccer’s FC Cincinnati, which opened in May.
USA vs. Mexico Lineups
Berhalter revealed that Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen will be starting (though he said it could’ve easily been Matt Turner) and Chelsea star Christian Pulisic will not. When the roster was announced, he made it clear that Ricardo Pepi would be getting the bulk of the minutes at forward.
USA projected starting lineup (4-3-3, left to right): Zack Steffen-GK — Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin — Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah — Brenden Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Paul Arriola
USA projected subs: Matt Turner-GK, Sean Johnson-GK, Joe Scally, Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards, Sam Vines, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio, Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Jesus Ferreira
Mexico comes into the match with headaches along the back line, where center backs Nestor Araujo (suspended) and Cesar Montes (injury) are out, and Hector Moreno will be a gametime decision. Head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, who indicated there are “a few players with knocks,” says that pending Moreno’s availability, the central defensive pairing will come from Gilberto ‘Tiba’ Sepulveda, Julio Cesar ‘Cata’ Dominguez or Johan Vasquez.
Mexico projected starting lineup (4-3-3, left to right): Guillermo Ochoa-GK — Jesus Gallardo, Gilberto ‘Tiba’ Sepulveda, Johan Vasquez, Jorge Sanchez — Luis Romo, Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera — Jose Manuel ‘Tecatito’ Corona, Raul Jimenez, Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano
Mexico projected subs: Rodolfo Cota-GK, Alfredo Talavera-GK, Hector Moreno, Julio Cesar ‘Cata’ Dominguez, Luis ‘Chaka’ Rodriguez, Osvaldo Rodriguez, Sebastian Cordova, Andres Guardado, Carlos ‘Charly’ Rodriguez, Ricardo ‘Canelo’ Angulo, Roberto ‘Piojo’ Alvarado, Orbelin Pineda, Henry Martin, Rogelio Funes Mori
USA vs. Mexico: Betting odds & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
These two teams are evenly matched and it’s a tough spot to pick a side. The total might be the best play.
In the last 10 years, 10 of 15 matches between the teams have featured two or more goals. It might be a tight affair between the two (though the USA is 4-1-1 in home World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico since 1990), but there should be goals, especially given Mexico’s defensive personnel issues and its struggles handling U.S. set pieces. Mexico also has its first-choice forwards together, and they’re due for a breakout match.
The “Over 2 Asian Total” is a push if the goal total falls on two goals. There’s a greater return for more risk in the “Over 2.25 Asian Total” at +105, but you only get half your bet back if the match only gets to two goals.
Pick: Over 2 Asian Total (-130) or Over 2.25 Asian Total (+105)
Prediction: USA 2, Mexico 1
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