11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

So lets start with I have 2 extra Tickets for the US game vs Mexico on Friday night – in Cincinnati in the American Outlaws Section behind the goal.  This is a standing room section with Crazy American Outlaw fans and is a very exciting section to be in.  Tickets at my cost of $145 each for 2 tix.   RE or call me at 317-748-7174 if interested in join us or meeting us at the game.

Roster Set for US Men vs Mexico on Friday night 9 pm ESPN2 from Cincy

Its here – the biggest game on the calendar every 4 years – outside of a World Cup – is World Cup Qualifying USA vs Mexico.  I have been blessed to be at a whole bunch of 2-0 (Dos A Cero) games in the Midwest including the last 4 in Columbus with 3 wins and of course the devastating loss 4 years ago.  So what happens this time?  First of the US sits in 2nd place – so we don’t have to beat Mexico (who is undefeated in qualifying thus far).  However, after back to back wins in the Nations League with our A team and then the Gold Cup with our B team – expectations are extremely high.  The US will have Christian Pulisic back – interesting to see if he starts or comes on in the 2nd half – considering his fitness and recovery from his ankle injury that has had him out for 2 months.  My guess is he starts – he’s our Captain – and I just don’t see him not starting.  Interesting to see John Brooks was not brought in for this set of games – he is back and playing in Germany – so I think this is a sign he’s not first choice for Coach Berhalter right now.  I am ok as long as Miles Robinson is in the middle – I think Zimmerman or Chris Richards are fine starting beside him. Either way none of them has faced the pressure of Qualifying vs Mexico – but certainly Miles has shown his a starter in INK if he’s healthy.  The left will be Antonee Robinson of course with Joe Scally (the18 year old new guy starting for Monchengladbach right now). Is he too young to start vs Mexico – in his first ever game (cap).  I don’t think so – he’s played Bayern Munich,  Dortmund – the kid can hold his own!  I think he starts but wouldn’t be surprised if Yedlin starts instead with Dest out injured.  I think Matt Turner is your GK.  He’s our best shot-stopper and that’s what you need vs Mexico.  Don’t play out of the back as much – kick away and let your goalkeeper protect his net without the BS buildup out of the back vs MEXICO.  The midfield is set in my mind – Adams at the #6, Mckinney and Musah at the shared #8 slots.  Finally up top its Christian on the left, Aaronson on the right and Mexican American youngster Pepi (get on the Pepi train) up top.  Of course knowing Coach B – don’t be surprised if Lleget or Paul Arriola slides in the starting line-up somehow.   I think it’s a huge game – honestly this might be the last time – a game this important is played in Qualifying like this.  We host the 2026 World Cup so no qualifying next round – and who knows if the World Cup will become every 2 years vs 4 (HORRIBLE IDEA) which would change qualifying completely.  I for one can’t wait !!  9 pm kickoff on ESPN2 – with pregame starting at 8:30 pm I think.  I am picking the US 2-1 (though I would love 2-0) of course !!

Shane’s Starting line up vs Mexico

Pepi

Aaronson/Arriola (adjusted at 5 pm)

McKennie/Musah

Adams

Robinson/Robinson, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

US MEN  – DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 24/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

 DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 4/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 17/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 14/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 0/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 8/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 69/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 20/2)

 MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 42/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 20/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 7/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 27/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 9/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 13/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 41/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 2/2), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 4/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 40/16), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 16/1)

MLS Playoffs Set

So MLS Decision day was exciting as the LA Teams could not qualify despite tying the final game where they needed a win to advance.  New England and Bruce Arena claimed the Supporters Shield for most points in MLS.   Here’s the Playoff Bracket with games starting next Saturday Nov 20. 

Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr Plays Sat night on ESPN + for San Antonio

Farr looks to start his 2nd game after a 2-0 shutout win vs San Diego last weekend.  San Antonio will host Rio Grand Valley FC  on Sat night at Toyota Field at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the game available live on ESPN+  in the Western Conference Semi-finals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs.   Jordan is up for Goal of the Month for October.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Thurs 11/11   

2:45 pm ESPN +           Greece vs Spain

2:45 pm ESPN +          Romania vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN+            Ireland vs Portugal

7:30 pm fubu               Brazil vs Colombia

Fri 11/12

2:45 pm ESPN2            Italy vs Switzerland

2:45pm ESPN +            England vs Albania

8 pm Paramount+        Honduras vs Panama

9 pm ESPN2                 USA vs Mexico 

9:10 pm Para +            Canada vs Costa Rica   

SATURDAY, NOV. 13 on ESPN+


Malawi vs. Cameroon (8 a.m. ET)
Liberia vs. Nigeria (11 a.m. ET)
Ivory Coast vs. Mozambique (2 p.m. ET)
France vs. Kazakhstan (2:45 p.m. ET)
Montenegro vs. Netherlands (2:45 p.m. ET)
Belgium vs. Estonia (2:45 p.m. ET)

Sun 11/14  

9 am ESPN+                  Croatia vs Russia

12 pm ESPN+               Armenia vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+            Spain vs Sweden

3 pm CBSSN               OL Reign vs TBD- NWSL Playoffs

5:30 pm CBSSN          Portland Thorns vs TBD

Tues 11/16   

 2:45 pm ESPN2          Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

How to Make USA vs Mexico a Home Game – the Challenge
How will USMNT lineup versus Mexico in big home World Cup qualifier?

How should the USMNT line up vs Mexico?  Stars and Stripes

USMNT-Mexico: World Cup qualifying clash’s key players, storylines

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM
US, Mexico set for CONCACAF ‘Clasico’ in World Cup clash

Aaronson: Pulisic back for U.S.-Mexico a ‘boost’
  Jeff Carlisle
Tuchel warns USMNT: Don’t ‘overuse’ Pulisic

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico as World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever
Five things to watch in USMNT vs Mexico in World Cup qualifying

Pepi: U.S.-Mexico a ‘special feeling’ for family
CBS to make US qualifier at Jamaica only available as stream

Report: USMNT forward Daryl Dike wanted by Serie A clubs

USMNT defender Chris Richards continues to make mark in Bundesliga

U.S. Soccer’s New Nike Deal Is Its Biggest Ever Partnership
Straus: The U.S.-Mexico Stakes Are Different for Ricardo Pepi

Creditor: Yedlin’s Experience a Differentiator Among Young U.S. Team

Straus: A Lot of Fight, a Little Fate and a Course Correction for USMNT

Straus: Musah’s Wait Was Worth It—and He’s Worth the Wait

Mexico taps Raul, Chucky for U.S., Canada

World

 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for on every continent
England’s Rice out of World Cup qualifiers with illness

Spain and Italy face decisive dates in World Cup qualifying

Immobile out of Italy’s World Cup qualifying deciders

Injured Chiellini out of Italy’s final World Cup qualifiers

Brazil, Argentina eye Qatar World Cup qualification

Zlatan jokes of ‘old body and young mind’ ahead of Sweden return

Paul Pogba out with injury; Ogbonna suffers ACL issue

African players in Europe: Zaha stars as he mulls Ivory Coast future

Germany’s Süle positive for virus, Kimmich among 4 more 

MLS Playoffs


Decision Day delivers drama and heartbreak
  Jeff Carlisle
D.C. United wins, but misses MLS playoffs by just one point in heartbreaker

Galaxy and LAFC fail to wrap up MLS Cup playoff berths

MLS all-time scorer Wondolowski retires

MLS playoffs set; Castellanos wins Golden Boot

Josef Martinez’s brilliant volley puts ATL in the playoffs

US Women + NWSL Playoffs

Vlatko Andonovski reveals USWNT November roster
Crystal Dunn embraces union role, says USWNT won’t “settle for anything other than equality”

Carli Lloyds Career is over
Ashley Hatch’s extra-time goal lifts Spirit to dramatic NWSL playoff win

EPL


Antonio Conte on Tottenham: ‘Work is the only medicine for us’

Drab draw with Everton shows task ahead for Conte at Tottenham

Beaten after 7 months, Liverpool stunned by soaring West Ham

USMNT’s Berhalter on Mexico: Two trophies didn’t seem to have earned their respect

3:51 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CINCINNATI — United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter says that his side still has “a long way to go” to get the respect of rival Mexico.

Speaking to reporters on a Zoom call ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier between the two longtime rivals (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), Berhalter said the two victories the U.S. enjoyed over Mexico last summer — in the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals — have done little to change Mexico’s perception of the U.S.  

“When you hear things coming out from their camp, that we want to be [Mexico], where we’re looking at some mirror that’s Mexico and we want to see ourselves or something like that, it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico,” Berhalter said. “The two victories in the summer I guess didn’t do a lot to get that. We’re going to have to do it [on Friday] by our play on the field.”Berhalter revealed that Christian Pulisic won’t start the match after making a recent return from an ankle injury, while Zack Steffen will start in goal ahead of Matt Turner.Pulisic injured his ankle during the World Cup qualifier against Honduras in September, and has made just two substitute appearances for club side Chelsea since then. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel mentioned recently that he hoped Berhalter would be “responsible enough” with his use of Pulisic, a plea that left Berhalter bemused.”He’s been training for four days [with Chelsea], and common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days, and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “I understand Tuchel’s concern. Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes in this trip anyway. He’s not going to start [Friday].As for Steffen, the Manchester City keeper has made just four league and cup appearances this season as the primary backup to Ederson, while Turner has been playing every game for the New England Revolution. Yet Berhalter opted to go with Steffen, whom he managed previously when both were with the Columbus Crew.”They’re both great goalkeepers, no question about it,” said Berhalter. “We’ve seen that in camp this week. Zack is going to start the game [Friday]. But you know, there’s very little separating them at this stage and we could just as easily went with Matt. We decided to play Zack.”Much has been made about the U.S. team’s choice of venue. The U.S. Soccer Federation has acknowledged being strategic, aiming to ensure that the crowd is pro-U.S. by placing the game in a smaller stadium and in a city farther way than some other locales with large Mexican-American populations.”We take pride in having Latino fans and that’s something that’s important to us and we hope that in the future guys like Ricardo Pepi will help us get more Latino fans,” said Berhalter. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s with Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd and it’s not always easy to ensure that.”Mexico figures to have a sizable advantage in experience, one that Berhalter acknowledged his side can’t make up. He estimated that Mexico’s average age will be 29 while the U.S.’s will be closer to 22 or 23. But he hopes that the experience his side has gained in recent years — including four matches against El Tri — will be enough.”We’ve learned from that game, and it’s important that we’re taking all those lessons on board as we prepare for [Friday] night.”As for Mexico, El Tri manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said that he is focused on the winning and breaking the two-match losing streak to the U.S.”We’ve looked at the games against the U.S. and we’ve worked on doing things differently. We never think of not playing for the draw,” Martino said. “Set pieces were a big factor in the previous games, it is how they won those matches.”As for the location of the match being a factor to limit Mexico fans, Martino added: “We always feel the support of Mexicans, in whichever place that we play.”

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

Opinion: Another chapter begins in the USMNT’s storied rivalry with Mexico

Nancy Armour, USA TODAY

Fri, November 12, 2021, 7:21 AM

When the U.S. men’s national soccer team defeated Mexico twice this summer — with a trophy at stake each time, no less – it seemed to signal a change was coming in what has often felt like a lopsided rivalry.

The Americans were young, but brimming with talent. Players who not only are playing in Europe, but starting for clubs that play in the UEFA Champions League. Players that other countries had courted, aggressively.

But prestigious as the Gold Cup and Nations League might be, the Americans won’t really get their archrival’s attention until they win when it matters.

Like Friday.

The World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati won’t make, or break, either team’s chances of playing in next year’s tournament in Qatar. Concacaf’s top three teams advance to the World Cup, and Mexico currently leads the Octagonal at almost the halfway point, with the USMNT three points behind.

There is something to be said, however, for taking points away from Mexico. And, more importantly, letting El Tri know once again that this U.S. team is every bit its equal.

“We have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico. I guess the two games this summer didn’t do a lot to get that,” coach Gregg Berhalter said Thursday, an edge in his voice. “We’re going to have to do a lot tomorrow on the field.”

For decades, Mexico had the run of Concacaf. And the U.S. men. From 1937 until 1980, Mexico had a 24-game unbeaten streak against their neighbors to the north, with many of the margins laughable.

There was the 7-2 drubbing in a qualifier for the 1958 World Cup, which came after a 6-0 rout. In several of the games, the U.S. men didn’t even manage a goal.

Fortunes began to change in the mid-1990s, as the U.S. men began their climb toward soccer respectability. A USMNT win here, another there, games that were competitive. Finally, in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup, there was a landmark U.S. win.

Goals by Brian McBride and Landon Donovan stunned Mexico, which was eliminated 2-0 while the Americans – the Americans! – advanced to the quarterfinals. “Dos a Cero” wins sealed the USMNT’s spot at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and the Americans won by that same scoreline to book their place in the 2014 tournament while putting Mexico on the brink of missing out.But the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia forced a rebuild.

MORE: USMNT coach talks about what might be his most important game yet

This is, arguably, the most talent and depth the U.S. men have ever had, led by players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna (who remains out with a hamstring injury). Of the 25-man roster for this round of qualifiers, 15 play in Europe.The Americans are young, however, with the average age of their recent rosters in the early 20s. It has taken the team time to come together, with the USMNT getting off to a rough start in qualifying.The wins over Mexico this summer served notice, though, of what this team could be. The decision in August by teenage phenom Ricardo Pepi to play for the USMNT, rather than Mexico, only solidified the notion that the Americans are on the rise.“I knew I had to take my own path,” said Pepi, who has been even better than the Americans could have hoped, scoring three goals in his first four appearances. “We have a very important game and I want to make sure I represent the U.S. in a good way.“It’s going to be a special feeling. A special feeling having my family in the stands, having me put the U.S. jersey on,” Pepi added. “I feel like I’m going to get goosebumps for sure. I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and very prepared for it. It’s going to be good.”One game won’t erase Mexico’s advantage in the all-time rivalry. Nor will it be enough to get the USMNT the respect it wants from its old foe.But it’s a good place to start.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

Preview, prediction for USMNT vs. Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier at TQL Stadium

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati EnquirerThu, November 11, 2021, 8:16 PM

It doesn’t take much heat to cause the storied rivalry between the U.S. men’s national soccer team and Mexico to boil over.The running footballing feud between the countries appears set to do so once again after it remained on a high simmer following an eventful and successful summer for the Americans.The USMNT took two trophies off the Mexicans this past summer, winning dramatically in both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals in June and August, respectively.Whether its a friendly match or a cup final, there’s never a throwaway encounter between the U.S. and Mexico, but meetings in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches tend to trump all other encounters.

More: What you need to know for the U.S. men’s national team’s match with Mexico at TQL Stadium

That makes the high-stakes USMNT-Mexico qualifying match Friday at TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m.) a chance for “El Tri” to claim the grandest form of redemption against its most bitter rival.Following the second of the USMNT’s successful trophy conquests in which it downed Mexico, and with the ongoing World Cup qualifying cycle looming, Mexico was forced to cope with criticism and doubt ahead of its qualifying campaign.Now, a victory by the Americans would pull them even with Mexico on points in the eight-team, round-robin qualifying group from which the top three teams advance directly to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.Conversely, Mexico could go six points clear of the U.S. with a victory, and provide itself with redemption after a summer of perceived failures.Mexico head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino was widely viewed to have called upon some of the country’s most-trusted, experienced players for November matches against the U.S., as well as Canada (Tuesday, 9:05 p.m.).Taken together, some view this two-match stretch as Mexico’s most difficult in the qualifying process.For the Americans’ part, head coach Gregg Berhalter assembled a group believed to be talented but still somewhat inexperienced in big matches on the international stage.However, the American player pool surely gained confidence and experience from its summer successes.”I think that the experience that we gained from playing in those tournaments over the summer gave a lot of different players the opportunity to play in big games,” American midfielder Tyler Adams said during a Thursday news conference. “The big takeaways obviously from that were raising two trophies at the end of them. That was our goal in the summer but at the end of the day, those trophies don’t mean anything to us now moving forward into this game because we have a World Cup on the line.”

How Mexico responds tactically and stylistically to the open, attacking matches of this past summer remains to be seen.How the young American team responds to Mexico’s response could ultimately decide the outcome of the contest. The maturation process could unfold quickly and in real-time on Friday.What seems certain for Berhalter is that respect from the Mexicans is still lacking, even after back-to-back wins with trophies on the line.”For us, despite being a young group, we know what this is about,” Berhalter said during a Thursday interview. “When you hear things coming out from their camp (like) we want to be them … it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico and the two victories over the summer, I guess, didn’t do a lot to get that so we’re going to have to do it (Friday).”

The Game

Kickoff: 9:10 p.m.; Friday at TQL Stadium

TV: ESPN2

Series info: Mexico leads the all-time series with a 36-21-15 record against America.

Roster notes: Gregg Berhalter on Thursday stated that Chelsea FC’s (England) Christian Pulisic wouldn’t start against Mexico as he’s returning to full fitness from an injury. Berhalter also confirmed Zack Steffen would start at goalkeeper for USMNT.

Cincinnati.com prediction: USMNT 1, Mexico 1.

USMNT

Record in Concacaf World Cup qualifying: 3-1-2, 11 points (second place)

FIFA world ranking: No. 13

Head coach: Gregg Berhalter

Mexico

FIFA world ranking: No. 9

Record in Concacaf qualifying: 4-0-2, 14 points (first place)

Head coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino

Mexico roster:

(club/country)

Goalkeepers (3): Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Alfredo Talavera (Pumas UNAM)
Defenders (9): Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo/Spain), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Hector Moreno (Monterrey), Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez (Tigres), Osvaldo Rodriguez (Leon), Jorge Sanchez (Club America), Johan Vasquez (Genoa/Italy)
Midfielders (9): Edson Alvarez (Ajax/Netherlands), Sebastian Cordova (Club America), Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Andres Guardado (Real Betis/Spain), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos “Charly” Rodriguez (Monterrey), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Hector Herrera (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Ricardo “Canelo” Angulo (Chivas)
Forwards (5): Jose Manuel “Tecatito” Corona (Porto/Portugal), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey), Raul Jimenez (Wolves/England), Henry Martin (Club America), Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Napoli/Italy)

Noteworthy: Since 2000, the U.S. and Mexico have split their World Cup qualifying contests via a 4-4-2 record.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Cincinnati

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer Thu, November 11, 2021, 11:11 PM

One could reasonably argue that TQL Stadium will be the site of the most important night in Gregg Berhalter’s managerial career to date.

Berhalter, who has been the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team since late 2018, will lead his side out against Mexico’s national team Friday at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in a pivotal FIFA World Cup qualifying match in the Concacaf region.

The eight-nation qualifying group will see the top three finishers qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and while the Americans have controlled the series against Mexico this century, anything can happen when the two sides meet.

Berhalter’s already taken two trophies off the Mexicans this year in winning the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals against “El Tri,” but it doesn’t get bigger for the head coach of the USMNT than the World Cup qualifier played against Mexico on American soil.

More: Inside the USMNT roster that will take on Mexico at TQL Stadium

Ahead of the start of the camp, which kicked off Monday at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford with 10 players present, Berhalter conducted an exclusive interview with The Enquirer. The conversation ranged from further dissection of the health of Christian Pulisic, arguably the biggest American star in the November camp, to Joe Scally, the 18-year-old Borussia Mönchengladbach rising star that’s been called into the senior national team for the first time.

Berhalter also reflected on the selection of TQL Stadium as the site for the all-important USMNT-Mexico clash, and a 2017 U.S. Open Cup match in which his Columbus Crew were eliminated from the tournament by FC Cincinnati.

Enquirer: We’re less than a week out from the Mexico match. Now that it’s finally here and is the next match to play, what are the emotions? What’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach?

Gregg Berhalter: “You know, it’s a good question. In the context of World Cup qualifying, it’s just another game, right? But in terms of the rivalry and the history and the times when you get to play them with a pro-U.S. crowd in a great stadium, I mean, it makes it special. It really does, and we’re focused on playing our game, playing a good game, and really just looking forward to giving this young group the experience of this game.”

E: The home match (for the U.S.) against Mexico in World Cup qualifying – a lot of people will say that’s the big one in the career of a U.S. national team manager, whether they get two cycles or one or whatever, the perception is this is the big one. Do you agree with that?

GB: “I just think it’s a great event. All the qualifiers that we play at home are amazing but this takes it to another level. It’s like amazing-plus. Because of the attention around the game, because of the amped up crowd, all of this just turns it into a really special event. For us as a group, we’re relishing this opportunity. We’ve played them four times already and all four times were in the United States but you could argue it wasn’t a pro-U.S. crowd. So, now we get to play in Cincinnati with our fans behind us and we’re looking forward to it.”USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks with a member of his team at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati ahead of a 2019 Gold Cup match against Venezuela. E: In our American soccer consciousness, we heap so much attention on this Mexico match. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for that but why do you think the game takes on the importance that it does from an American perspective?

GB: “I think it’s because they’ve been top dog in the region historically, right? And now we come in and we have something to say about it. And we, over the years and the early 2000s, we started dominating the matchup. It was something that – no one likes to be taken off their perch and this was something where it became personal and the matchups have been heated. For the U.S. fans, the U.S. loves to see winners and to see the national team start to get some good victories against Mexico, it meant a lot. All that intensified the rivalry. Now, if you’re talking about in the 70s and they’re beating us every game, the rivalry wasn’t as intense, right?”

E: In the 2018 Russia World Cup cycle, the U.S. lost its home match to Costa Rica and that was one of the key results in that cycle. The math is different in this qualifying cycle because it’s an eight-team group as opposed to six like it was previously, but you reversed that result back on Oct. 13 in a 2-1 win (at Lower.com Field). That was the last match you played in qualifying and since you’re trying to kind of do the same thing on Friday against Mexico and reverse a loss from that previous cycle, how big do you think it was to reverse the Costa Rica result?

GB: “We didn’t really look at it like that. We looked at it like we want to have a good performance, a strong performance, and we want to win the game. It wasn’t really something that crept into our mind. You know, this group is a different team, has a different focus and we want to win our home games. And whether it’s Costa Rica, Jamaica, whoever – we want to win. We have Mexico, and Friday night will be no exception.”

E: A couple questions on site selection for this Mexico match. You’ve managed twice in Cincinnati – a big game (a U.S. Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew) at the club level and the Venezuela friendly (in 2019). I wonder how your experience managing in those games, and taking stock of what this city offered on those occasions, impacted whatever voice you had in picking the site for this Mexico game.

GB: “We had a working group that got together and evaluated what’s gonna be important for each game. We looked at the weather, we looked at the crowd, we looked at the facilities – both training and stadium. We looked at the distance of that game to the next game, and overall, my personal experience here really helped me understand what the fans are like.

“I’ve mentioned, I referenced the game we had against Cincinnati in the Open Cup and that was one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in the United States because of both fan bases in the same stadium in big numbers. Diverse colors that were contrasting. It was a fantastic game, so I just know that when you talk about a pro-U.S. crowd, I was very comfortable with the fact that we’d get that in Cincinnati. With the venue (TQL Stadium) being what it is, it’s a top-class facility in Major League Soccer.”

E: Did you get to come and walk the stadium or take a tour during the selection process?

GB: “We had people come look at it. I didn’t personally. I was invited by the club to come to the opening game and unfortunately, due to my schedule, I couldn’t come but I got a lot of feedback and did the virtual tours and all that stuff.”

E: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about that 2017 Open Cup match. Time has passed. I remember the post-game and it was emotional, and there was just so much stuff there with those two organizations back in 2017. A lot of that has dissipated and now it’s just a great rivalry in MLS but what are your recollections of that night?

GB: “I mean, you don’t like to lose any game so that was never fun. Our fans were disappointed and your fans were excited. It was a great game. It’s a storybook-type of run that FC Cincinnati had that year and I don’t like to lose at all but I still remember the experience. I think overall, it was a great atmosphere in the stadium and that’s what soccer’s about. You got the away supporters as well, and that’s what made it a great event.”

E: In terms of where you are in the process of starting the November camp, you’ve picked your squad, you’re still waiting for the players to arrive. Can you describe what it’s like for you watching the last club matches for the players after you’ve named your squad? Especially with the Mexico game on-deck. I imagine there are a lot of nerves and maybe some personal investment in their performances because you’ve just named them to the national team.

GB: (Laughter). “It’s the worst. After you’ve named the roster, you want to put them in a glass case. What we’ve learned is to expect the unexpected and you just have to take it like that but it is nerve-racking when you name a squad and they still have to play a game, sometimes two games with the Champions League midweek, and you’re really just anticipating something happening but it’s also part of it. That’s part of being an international manager.”

 I’m sure you addressed this to the best of your ability last week on your Zoom call and I’m not sure how much would have changed in just a few days, but do you have a better sense today of what you can lean on Christian Pulisic for in this camp and how you’ll manage his situation (coming off an injury)?

GB: “I think the important thing is that Christian leaves camp healthy and ready to push on with Chelsea. That’s gonna be first and foremost in our minds, and then when we get him in camp, seeing exactly where he’s at and seeing exactly what his role will be, so we haven’t determined exactly what his role will be but I’m sure he’ll be on the field in these games.”

E: Joe Scally. People are excited to see him get this call-up. What factored into the decision to call him in and what are your expectations for a younger player in his situation?

GB: “I think that it’s a case where he’s earned it. He’s pushed his way into the team by playing every week and playing at a high level and winning games, and playing against good team. It’s like that’s the beauty of the national team, when guys can really play their way onto the team. Joe’s an example of that. We’re not looking at the age. We’re looking at his quality, and we’re looking at what he’s doing every single week. You know, Joe’s certainly performed well. He’s the only player in this camp that hasn’t been in a camp before. We’ve used a lot of players over these last two years so it’s nice to get some consistency, but with Joe, he’s a guy that’s earned his way into the group.”

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: World Cup qualifying: Gregg Berhalter talks USMNT vs. Mexic

Christian Pulisic back for USMNT-Mexico gives ‘confidence boost,’ says Brenden Aaronson

2:06 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States international midfielder Brenden Aaronson said the return of Chelsea star Christian Pulisic gives the U.S. a “confidence boost” ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (watch or stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) against rivals Mexico.

Pulisic missed out on the previous round of qualifiers due to an ankle injury he sustained against Honduras back in September. He only recently returned to the field for Chelsea, featuring as a substitute in both the 1-0 win against Malmo FF in the Champions League and the 1-1 draw last weekend against Burnley.  U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter has made it clear he doesn’t expect Pulisic to log heavy minutes against Mexico, and then Jamaica four days later. Prior to the Burnley match, he spoke of progressing Pulisic “in a safe way” and that “we’re also not willing to risk anything.”But Pulisic was among the 10 U.S. players that took part in Monday’s training session and those in attendance spoke of how important his return to the side is.”With Christian being back, I mean, for the whole team, we know how much quality has,” said Aaronson. “He’s been with the national team for a long time, doing his thing, and he was here through the last qualifying and he did a fantastic job then. He means so much to our team, so it’s awesome having him back. It’s like another confidence boost just having me here.”Fulham and U.S. defender Antonee Robinson added, “Christian coming back in, it’s massive for the group just having him around. In general, like, just being a good lad, being around him, and being a leader off the field. And we know when he gets on the field, whether he starts or has to come off the bench, then he’s a player we can rely on to put his all into the team and create chances and help us if we need him to get the win.”Nonetheless, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel stressed caution over Pulisic’s minutes while on international duty, saying that the player “still feels some pain.””I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough,” Tuchel previously told reporters. “Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. has had the upper hand in recent encounters with El Tri, prevailing with their full side in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, and then with largely a reserve side in August’s Gold Cup final. But Aaronson knows that the U.S. can’t rely too heavily on previous results.”We got the best of them the two times before, but this is something totally different,” he said. “It’s World Cup qualifying and it’s a different kind of beast, so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Chelsea boss Tuchel: USMNT’s Pulisic still ‘in pain’ ahead of key qualifiers

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has said that United States star Christian Pulisic is still “in pain” ahead of the key World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica this week, and has warned U.S. counterpart Gregg Berhalter against overusing the 23-year-old forward.

Pulisic was named in the U.S. squad last week after returning from an ankle injury sustained in the 4-1 victory over Honduras two months ago but has only played a total of 23 minutes in substitute appearances for Chelsea against Malmo and Burnley.

The U.S. sit in second place in the qualification standings in the race to reach the Qatar World Cup, three points behind Mexico and a point ahead of third-place Canada ahead of the crucial meeting against El Tri in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.

But when asked if Pulisic was ready to play a significant role for the U.S. during the international window, Chelsea boss Tuchel cast doubt over whether the forward will be able to feature for the full match at the TQL Stadium on Friday.”The answer is if you look at the minutes, the question is maybe answered,” Tuchel told reporters following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Burnley. “I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough.”Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”He wants desperately to come back. We needed him back. It was a good start for him in Malmo. Today he had 10 minutes [against Burnley]. We are a bit worried.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. have already been hit with a double injury blow, as Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna were ruled out of the fixtures against Mexico and Jamaica.The absence of both players heightens the importance of Pulisic’s return, but Berhalter has insisted that he will be cautious in managing the Chelsea forward’s minutes after spending the past two months on the sidelines.”We’re gonna see what kind of minutes he gets [against Burnley],” Berhalter told reporters after naming his 25-player squad last week. “It was unexpected that he played against Malmo and he ended up playing a little bit.”So for us, it’s about progressing him in a safe way. We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels, and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”

U.S. Soccer’s biggest challenge vs. Mexico: Making a home game an actual home game

Henry Bushnell  –Wed, November 10, 2021, 1:30 PM

CINCINNATI — The most popular soccer team in the United States is a traveling circus that draws Incondicionales everywhere it goes. “Unconditionals,” the Mexican national team calls them. Diehard fans of El Tri who, in recent years, have filled stadiums coast to coast. They packed Soldier Field. They took over Las Vegas. They regularly make the U.S. men’s national team a de facto road team at home.But once every four years, in Ohio, U.S. Soccer doesn’t let them.When the U.S.-Mexico rivalry resumes in World Cup qualifying here on Friday, American officials expect Cincinnati’s glistening TQL Stadium to fill with red, white and blue. They’ve planned light displays and synchronized chants. They expect a rabid, patriotic, crowd, in part because they — a group of prominent U.S. Soccer staffers that includes USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter — have worked for months behind the scenes to create it.They “absolutely” believe that they could sell out a 100,000-seat stadium for this game, which one U.S. Soccer employee calls “the Super Bowl of what we do.” But they know many of the 100,000 would be Mexican Americans. And they’d rather win. So, using everything from Census data to complex ticket lotteries, they follow a 20-year-old blueprint to make this home game … well, a home game.

Gaming the ticket allocation

Nearly a quarter-century ago, before Dos a Cero and frigid Columbus, with USMNT fandom nowhere near as robust as it is today, U.S. Soccer brought its first modern-era qualifying showdown with Mexico to Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts. And on that April day in 1997, from a crowd of 57,000 with split allegiances, it learned a lesson.“If you’re playing against a team that has a large community of expats in the U.S.,” longtime U.S. Soccer official Sunil Gulati said in a recent interview, “you almost have to play in a smaller stadium.”So U.S. Soccer took its 2001 qualifier against Mexico to 24,000-seat Crew Stadium in Columbus, where it could more selectively sell tickets. It won the game in front of an overwhelmingly pro-U.S. crowd. So it simply kept coming back. The lore around the venue and a succession of 2-0 victories made that decision almost automatic, even as moderate-size, soccer-specific stadiums multiplied across the country. Amy Hopfinger, U.S. Soccer’s vice president of events, remembers “at least entertaining the idea” of playing the game elsewhere in 2016. “But,” she said in an interview, “there was no real consideration.”That choice alone, though, didn’t ensure that stars and stripes would fill the stands. Behind the scenes, U.S. Soccer’s commercial department refined the process that does. They grant exclusive ticket access to a variety of groups with ties to the American soccer establishment. For Friday’s game in Cincinnati, they designed a “weighted random draw,” essentially stacking a lottery in favor of fans who pay to be U.S. Soccer “Insiders.”The first batch of tickets went to fans who pay a $500 annual membership fee. The second and third went to lower-level paying members. The fourth was available to recognized U.S. supporters groups, such as the American Outlaws, and to FC Cincinnati’s MLS season ticket holders. Only the fifth and final batch was available to non-paying “Insiders.” In total, according to a federation spokesman, there were requests for more than 30,000 tickets. Requests for around 10,000 tickets were left unfulfilled. The general public never got access.

The scheme, of course, is rooted in the fact that relatively few of these members will support Mexico. And it has worked. The average fan-ratio estimate from those who attended qualifiers in Columbus is roughly 85-15 in favor of the U.S. Five consecutive World Cup cycles brought a true home-field advantage. Only a USMNT loss in 2016 opened up the venue selection process to other candidates — and, perhaps, some thought, to other regions of the country.But according to Donald Wine, a prominent American Outlaws leader, “a few more Mexican fans have gotten into the building each time.” The secondary market offered opportunities. So do free or cheap memberships. The scheme isn’t foolproof. It’s penetrable. Which is why the location of the game still matters.“I still don’t think we would go to a strong Mexican American community,” Hopfinger said.

Finding a U.S.-friendly venue

U.S. Soccer’s unofficial venue selection committee comprises Hopfinger, chief commercial officer David Wright, longtime administrative whiz Tom King and director of marketing Mike Gressle — but also Berhalter, sporting director Earnie Stewart and USMNT general manager Brian McBride. They consider dozens of factors, but ultimately, for the Mexico game, as Berhalter said last week, “our priority was finding a venue that we know we’d have a pro-U.S. crowd.”

He went on to mention the nation’s “rich Hispanic heritage.” Mexican Americans, specifically, now make up 12.2% of the U.S. population. Not all of the 36.6 million care about soccer; and not all of those who do care root for El Tri. But many are fanatics. The Mexican national team plays roughly three times as many games in the U.S. as it does on home soil, in part to attract those fanatics. When U.S. Soccer schedules friendlies against Mexico — when revenue is the primary concern — it tries to attract them too.But when it schedules qualifiers, it tries to avoid them. It knows that the Mexican American population is concentrated in certain regions and hubs. And it surely knows, for example, that no major hub is within a four-hour drive of Cincinnati.

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

In fact, only one, Chicago, is within seven hours. Just 4.4% of Ohioans identify as Hispanic, and only 1.8% claim Mexican heritage — both bottom-10 marks among U.S. states. Of the 17 states with MLS teams, Ohio’s Latino population share ranks last. And of the 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with MLS teams, Columbus and Cincinnati rank second-to-last and last.Not coincidentally, Columbus and Cincinnati were the two finalists to host the qualifier against Mexico, Hopfinger said. Dozens of cities bid in total. “Minnesota put in a real strong effort,” she said. “And there’s probably others in the Midwest. … We talked to Kansas City.” But in the end, only two were seriously considered.Other factors also bolstered Cincinnati’s candidacy. A fresh 26,000-seat stadium and eager fan base were two major ones. That fan base made Hopfinger “feel comfortable about tickets being taken and used by those supporters,” rather than seeping onto the secondary market — where pickings have been extremely slim. Tickets are going for over 200% of their already-high face values. “So we feel really confident in not only how we priced it, but also in that ticket holders are actually utilizing their tickets,” Hopfinger said.Demographics, though, have been and will remain part of the calculus. Hopfinger mentioned “understanding census data and things like that.”“And I don’t think that’s the final determination,” she clarified. “But it is a conversation that we have.”

Party planning

With tickets almost certainly in USMNT-supporting hands, Aaron Gonzalez and the American Outlaws go to work. Gonzalez is U.S. Soccer’s head of event production. AO is the largest nationwide U.S. fan group, with some 30,000 members across all 50 states. Together, they create a spectacle that is equal parts organic and carefully orchestrated.They began the orchestration before Friday’s location was even announced. The moment it was, in late July, AO leaders contacted their Cincinnati chapter. Over the coming months, drummers and “capos” — chant coordinators — got involved. They dreamt up and painted a “tifo,” a massive banner that they’ll raise minutes before kickoff.Gonzalez, meanwhile, planned a party unlike any he’d planned before. “We’ve circled this date for a long time,” he said. Fans will arrive here on Friday to find a high-tech LED wristband in their seat. After warmups, lights will dim, the wristbands will brighten and flash, covering the stands in red, white and blue. A “manifesto video” will play. Eight laps of pyrotechnics will illuminate the field as players emerge from the tunnel. The U.S. starting lineup will be introduced via call and response. A PA announcer will boom first names; thousands of fans will scream surnames on cue. Then a noise meter, an in-stadium host and a countdown will prompt them as 9:10 p.m. nears.Gonzalez has scripted much of this on his own, or with input from colleagues. But in one case, input came from the head coach. At previous games, Gonzalez and AO had coordinated a slow-clap chant right at kickoff. Many outsiders felt that it deadened the raucous atmosphere building toward the game; that it was an awkward departure from the roar that typically greets an opening whistle. Berhalter apparently felt similarly. He met with Gonzalez. They decided that the clap — modeled after Iceland’s Viking clap, but accompanied by “U-S-A” — should instead welcome players to the field several minutes earlier. Their new goal for the moments before and after kickoff, Gonzalez said, is to “try to create chaos, this noisy atmosphere, this awesome sound.”And then, for 90 minutes, 26,000 fans will try to sustain it. AO and other organized supporters groups will try to simplify their chants and get the entire stadium involved. Because they know, as USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta said Tuesday, that “being at home, in a pro-U.S. crowd, is definitely huge.”They also know that this opportunity, to fill the ears of Mexican players with “U-S-A” chants, is rare. So they’re going to make the most of it.And even if they aren’t 20,000-strong; even if Mexican fans find their way in and claim some 20 or 25% of seats, “you’ll be able to feel that it’s 100% American,” Gonzalez said. “That’s our goal.”

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico; World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever

1:27 PM ETSam BordenESPN Senior Writer

Yunus Musah had only heard about it. The fire. The intensity. The bags of urine flying from the stands like gross, golden grenades. Tall tales, you know? Lore. Musah had heard stories, but it wasn’t until this summer that he finally saw a sliver of it with his own eyes.

It wasn’t his fault he was unaware, either. Musah grew up in Italy, spending his youth soccer days playing in England. He is every bit as American as any other player on the U.S. men’s national team — he was born in New York — but until June, when he was part of the U.S. roster for the Nations Cup final, he’d never really grasped the singular truth that his teammates with U.S. roots seemed to understand from their first kick of a ball…

… The games against Mexico are different.”I only realized it then,” Musah told me one day last month, his eyes getting wide as he talked about the national anthems, the fireworks and the way the fans shouted and chanted at each other with that incredible heat that felt more like a rolling boil. He laughed. “That’s when I realized ‘OK — this is mad.'” It is, and it has been this way for decades, with every generation of American players, coaches and fans bringing their own backstory to the rivalry, only to inevitably end up in the same place. There is no debate on this particular subject, and no other perspective. When the schedule for the World Cup qualifying matches was announced, which match did you look for first? Which date did you put in your calendar right away?

Now, finally, it’s here again. Friday in Cincinnati. U.S. vs. Mexico (watch on ESPN2 or stream LIVE on ESPN, starting at 9 p.m. ET). Another one of these games that ripples up from the page. That crackles. That feels like the beginning to a new chapter in this story that we all crave the most.Only this time, it also feels like something is ending.


It should be noted that Musah wasn’t being hyperbolic. The atmosphere in Denver for that Nations League final really was something remarkable. The game, which featured the top players from each side, had all the U.S./Mexico hallmarks: contentious refereeing decisions, scuffles, grittiness, absurd emotional swings and, when it was over and the U.S. had won, the haughty dismissiveness from Mexico that comes from a group continuing to hold a marked advantage in the all-time, head-to-head record.As good as the feeling was that night, though, it was still the Nations League. It was still a tournament without history.The World Cup qualifiers between the teams, on the other hand, have always existed on a different plane. Theirs is a heightened sense of urgency, of importance, of meaning.The stakes are incomparable: for teams in North America, the World Cup is alone at the pinnacle. For all its charm, the Gold Cup isn’t the Euros or the Copa America; it just isn’t. It doesn’t have anything close to the same meaning to players or fans that the continental tournaments do elsewhere. Because of that, when Mexico and the United States play in a World Cup qualifier, the match isn’t simply about asserting superiority; it’s about standing in front of your rival on the road toward the only thing that truly matters.We know the moments. The “Dos a Ceros.” The brutal reverse by Mexico in Columbus five years ago that was part of the American death spiral. The scoreless draws in Azteca in 1997 and 2013. The U.S. has still never won a qualifier there.Those games are the root drama of this rivalry, its lifeblood. But in terms of carrying meaning, they might be nearly complete. The game at Azteca in this qualifying cycle isn’t until March, when one (or both) of the teams could be qualified. And with the 2026 World Cup being hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, those countries won’t need to participate in the qualifying tournament at all over the next four years. There will be only friendlies.Beyond that, FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup field to 48 teams (for now), which means that CONCACAF will receive at least six places in every tournament — a reality that’ll further drain the drama from the already top-heavy confederation. Traditionally, the final round of qualifying featured six teams (the Hex, as it was known) and three were guaranteed spots, giving the rivalry games their edge.Going forward? With the disparity in resources among the CONCACAF nations, it seems virtually impossible to imagine a situation in which either of the top countries is at risk of missing a World Cup when there are a half-dozen spots available. After all, since 1990, only seven of the 41 CONCACAF nations have even qualified for a World Cup, highlighting just how divided the region really is.

Now, let’s be clear: Nobody’s saying that the intensity in games between the U.S. and Mexico is going to suddenly disappear. It can’t. The players will always bring their own histories to the matchups, and more and more, those histories are infused with passion for the rivalry from the youngest of ages.When Paul Arriola was 14, he attended a U.S. youth national team camp that involved a trip to that summer’s Gold Cup final at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. It was the U.S. against Mexico, and Mexico routed the Americans 5-0. Arriola, who grew up in Chula Vista, California — right near the border with Mexico — looks back at that game as a particularly formative afternoon in his career.”We were all there with our U.S. polo shirts on,” Arriola told me. “And every time Mexico scored, we would get beer thrown on us [by the Mexico fans]. I remember getting so angry, and so frustrated that we were kids and these people were showing such passion that they were willing to throw beer on kids.” He shook his head.”Obviously, I have great respect for the rivalry and for the teams and you know, for Mexico and their fans, but it still drives me today to always want to win against them. Because, you know, I carry that extra edge. And that experience that I experienced.”Ricardo Pepi, who will likely lead the attack for the U.S. on Friday, grew up near the border in El Paso, Texas, and makes no secret of where his family’s loyalties were when he was younger.”I’m being honest with you: I always used to root for Mexico just because, you know, my parents rooted for Mexico,” he said. “They’re Mexican, I grew up watching Mexican soccer, I grew up watching the Mexican national team. And you know, those were times where, you know, we’re rooting for the Mexican national team in general. In my household, it’s all Mexican culture. And then I stepped foot out of my house and it’s all American culture.”He shrugged. Whatever is at stake, a U.S.-Mexico game will always be special for his family.”I started representing the U.S. and U.S. national teams, and I started feeling something for the crest,” he said, “and I said I was going to represent the U.S. with all my heart.”Friday’s game feels like the typical powder keg. The U.S. has a young, largely unproven team and has shown the expected inconsistency one would expect from such a group: disappointments like the home draw with Canada or the sluggish performance in the loss against Panama, juxtaposed against the vibrancy of the second half in Honduras or the fightback from an early hole to take all three points against Costa Rica. The unpredictability, for both good and bad reasons, has been persistent.Mexico, too, hasn’t been as automatic as it would like. It took a last-minute goal to beat Jamaica (largely seen as the weakest of the teams in the group) and draws against Panama and Canada (startlingly, at the Azteca) have laid bare their own vulnerabilities. The importance of this game, for both teams, is real.Does it seem most likely they both make Qatar? Certainly. But there’s enough scar tissue from 2018 for American fans, still enough doubt and still enough games left to play in this cycle that the significance of the match has surged. Brenden Aaronson, who figures to be one of many Americans playing in his first qualifier against Mexico, said he thinks it will be “a war.” Tim Weah, who came on as a substitute in that Nations League final, told me that was his “first time getting a taste of it. And it was an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to get more of it.”He isn’t alone; this is what everyone craves. The U.S. and Mexico. A packed stadium in Ohio. A World Cup spot in the offing for those players who can assert themselves.It is the best kind of night in American soccer, the sort of night that players and coaches and fans see anytime they close their eyes.Embrace it. Adore it. Revel in it. It might not be quite like this ever again.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  •  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM
Ricardo Pepi USMNT

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.

“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”

While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.

“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.

“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”

El Tren! Ricardo Pepi nets brace to continue incredible start to USMNT career

USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.

“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”

Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

Which Country has the Ultimate Home Field Advantage? THE OCTAGON

“They’ll eat you up and spit you out.” This is just one of the ways that players describe World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF. Whether it’s the heat of Mexico City, the noise in San Salvador, the cold of Columbus, each nation in CONCACAF uses it own,

In both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USA vs. Mexico: A fierce rivalry bred out of respect

While the game will be fierce, the respect will be ever-present.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 11, 2021, 6:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team’s rivalry with the Mexican Men’s National Team is one of the fiercest and greatest international rivalries on Earth. Two teams within a confederation have, for decades, fought for the right to hold the title of Kings of Concacaf. And for the most part, the two teams have done that without interruption from any other teams within the region.USA vs. Mexico is the biggest soccer match on this continent. Many call it the Super Bowl of North American soccer. And that rivalry once again takes center stage Friday night in Cincinnati when the USMNT and Mexico face each other in World Cup qualifying.So many matches in the history of this rivalry have had epic moments, big goals, and trophies that were won. It permeates throughout the fabric of soccer in both countries, from the national teams to the federations, from the domestic leagues to the fanbases. Players hate each other, federations want to outdo each other, and fanbases strive for their teams to win over the other at all costs so they can hold the bragging rights and claim their team as the true kings of the continent.But, the hatred that you see on the field isn’t born out of anything malicious. Rather, it’s formed from something that’s more difficult to attain: respect.Back in 2015, Tim Howard broke down the rivalry more aptly than just about anyone has in quite a while:“I have always thought that your fate and reputation and your legend will ultimately be decided as a U.S. player by how you perform against Mexico,” Howard said. “Those will be the games you remember and cherish. We talk about the hatred, that is bred out of respect. They fear us and vice versa, because we have a mutual respect.”That mutual respect is why the games are intense, fierce, and full of passion on both sides. Ahead of the match on Friday, Tim Howard, who’s currently a Premier League analyst for NBC Sports, joined Julie Stewart-Binks for an interview on the upcoming episode of her show, Drinks with Binks, which streams on Saturday nights on Fubo Sports Network at 5:00pm and 5:30pm on both coasts (Fubo TV free trial). He reiterated that while he hates the Mexican players and the team and the federation, that hate is there because of the respect he has for them.That respect must remain for the rivalry to continue to be great. On Friday night, yet another chapter will be written in the book of USA vs. Mexico. While there will certainly be gamesmanship on both sides, both by players and coaches, and there will certainly be banter in the stands, the mutual respect must be the constant. The players want to win, the fans want to win, and it will seem that every soccer fan in North America will pick a side. But listen to the words of Tim Howard: the hatred is bred out of respect. Let’s keep respect at the center of this match as we cheer on the USMNT.

USA vs. Mexico, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Mexico

The two continental titans face off once again. By Brendan Joseph  Nov 11, 2021, 7:00am PSTThe United States Men’s National Team continues to fight through the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, currently at second place in the CONCACAF table. The next opponent was circled on the schedule well in advance, another Mexico fixture that is sure to provide all the expected thrills and drama. The two nations renew the rivalry at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second international match hosted by the recently opened venue.Mexico is managed by Gerardo “Tata” Martino, an experienced journeyman with stops at Paraguay, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, Argentina, and Atlanta UnitedAppointed to the role in January of 2019, the 58-year-old has compiled an impressive 33-5-5 record. Despite some criticism over the summer after losing in the finals of the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, he has his team on pace to easily reach the World Cup.El Tri is undefeated in qualifying with a 4-0-2 record, topping the group. The last international window opened with a 1-1 draw with Canada, followed by wins over Honduras and El Salvador, 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. A recent friendly against Ecuador – played on a non-FIFA date, featuring a definitive second-choice group – ended in a 3-2 loss. The sour taste of the underwhelming summer is gone, washed away by success in more meaningful competition, where Mexico always seems to get the job done.Martino named a 26-player roster for the matches against the United States and Canada. The roster features 18 call-ups from Liga MX. Notable names such as Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez, Julian Araujo, and David Ochoa are not included.

***

GOALKEEPERS (3): Guillermo Ochoa (América), Alfredo Talavera (UNAM), Rodolfo Cota (León)

https://de2d3190abee06490329602c3b91e1c3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html DEFENDERS (9): Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Luis Rodríguez (UANL), Julio César Domínguez (Cruz Azul), Jorge Sánchez (América), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León), Johan Vásquez (Genoa), Gilberto Sepúlveda (Guadalajara)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Andrés Guardado (Betis), Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Edson Álvarez (Ajax), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Sebastián Córdova (América), Jesús Ricardo Angulo (Guadalajara)

FORWARDS (5): Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jesús Corona (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Henry Martín (América), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

***

Martino utilizes an attacking 4-3-3 formation with inverted wingers and dynamic fullbacks. The build-up is primarily through the wide areas, resulting in a centering pass, direct through ball, or quick shot after cutting inside. When maintaining possession, the ball is methodically cycled by the back line until a vertical one-two combination can be opened. Frequent decoy runs and dummies are also used to pull the opponent out of position and create space.The USMNT has struggled recently with defending crosses, particularly those played in transition. The back line is in an ongoing state of flux, compounded by John Brooks not being included in this camp. Impeding Mexico’s progress partially falls on the shoulders of Tyler Adams, but the run of play may generally avoid the rangy midfielder’s significant purview.

Lozano//Jimenez//Corona

Herrara//Guardado

Alvarez

Gallardo//Vasquez//Moreno//Sanchez At 36 years of age, Guillermo Ochoa remains the starter for Mexico, adding to his 120 caps. Now at Club América, he provides experience and a sense of stability, never rattled or bothered by high pressure situations. While no longer as explosive, his shot-stopping and ability to control the box make him one of the world’s most complete goalkeepers.Monterrey’s lockdown center back, César Montes, was removed from the roster due to an injury. Regular starter Néstor Araujo is suspended after earning two yellow cards against El Salvador. Mexico should be fine, as long as Héctor Moreno’s “muscle discomfort” remains a minor issue. The left-footed 33-year-old is a sharp passer and harrying defender, even finding the first goal in the previous fixture. His partner will be either Gilberto Sepúlveda of Chivas or Genoa’s Johan Vásquez, neither of whom possess much international experience. The latter appears to have gained Martino’s favor following a strong performance at the Tokyo Olympics and securing regular minutes in Serie A.Jesús Gallardo is the current first-choice left back, harboring the attacking instincts to overlap as the wingers cut inside. He is a flashy one-on-one dribbler and pushes deep into the final third. On the other side of the formation is Jorge Sánchez of América, who times his tackles incredibly well and is a decent crosser. While not as dangerous as his partner, the 23-year-old forces unexpected turnovers which spark counter-attacks. Veterans Julio César Domínguez and Luis Rodríguez could also feature if Martino prefers a more experienced player.At defensive midfielder, Edson Álvarez dictates proceedings for Mexico and will, at times, drop back to serve as a third center back. Whether cycling possession, swarming possessing lanes, or halting a dribbler dead in his tracks, the 24-year-old is constantly on patrol. He recently extended his contract with Ajax after a breakout year that saw the Dutch super club claim a league and cup double.El Tri is loaded at the central midfield position with plenty of talent available. Despite Martino appearing to pull back from Andrés Guardado, he started against Canada. A match with the USMNT may beckon for the veteran playmaker’s presence and ability to cycle the ball to the wings. His constant partner, Héctor Herrera, remains a favorite of the manager. The 31-year-old box-to-box still pushes the tempo at Atlético Madrid, arguably playing as a quasi-ten at the international level. As an alternative option, versatile Luis Romo emerged over the past year, known in Liga MX for hitting the most audacious of accurate long passes and field switches.Napoli’s Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is one of the most dynamic players in CONCACAF. The inverted winger charges into the final third and frequently beats defenders off the dribble. On the other side, Jesús Corona is similarly strong with the ball and pulling away opponents to open up space. He can cross from the wing and will also cut inside.Raúl Jiménez made a triumphant return to the national team last window after overcoming a horrifying skull fracture. The target striker played in all three matches, scoring a 90th minute insurance goal in the 2-0 victory over El Salvador. The 30-year-old is a handful and a problem, possessing the size and speed to punish opposing back lines. Whether in hold-up play or transition, he is going to wreak havoc and influence proceedings.The summer is long over, the triumphant Nations League and Gold Cup results irrelevant to World Cup qualification. This is a refocused and experienced Mexico that should be favored to claim all three points over an inconsistent USMNT, only weakened by some unforeseen issues at center back. The match promises to be an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that is unlikely to end in a scoreless draw or shutout.The match is scheduled for Friday, November 12th at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, 6:10 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, and Univision USA, and Fubo TV (free trial).

=======================================================================================================

Written Q&A: ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar

Grant Wahl  Nov 11Sebastian Salazar will be hosting ESPN2’s pregame and postgame shows for the USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier on Friday (

One of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on a reporting trip came during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Sebastian Salazar and Arlo White joined me and a few other people in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (where we were covering the USWNT) to attend a Cruzeiro Brazilian league game at the same stadium where the USMNT famously beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. That was Sebi’s first national gig, with NBC Sports, and it came right before he joined ESPN.

It was clear that Sebi was a major talent on a national scale, and he has only continued that rise over the last few years. He and I caught up ahead of Friday’s big USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier, which he’ll be broadcasting for ESPN. Really enjoyed this conversation!

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is my friend Sebastian Salazar of ESPN. He’s the co-host with Hérculez Gómez of the excellent show Fútbol Américas, which you can see on ESPN+. Sebi also appears on ESPN FC and does play-by play with Julie Foudy on ESPN’s U.S. women’s national team games, among other things. Sebi, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Sebastian Salazar:

Hey, thanks for having me on. I’ve listened to the show for a while. So as I was telling you before, it’s always cool to appear on a show that you’ve listened to.

Grant Wahl:

I love it that we actually have listeners, I just get excited about this, who then come on as interview guests. So we’re recording this on Friday night, it’s coming out Monday, which means it’s USA-Mexico week in World Cup qualifying. And for you, as someone who pays close attention to soccer on both sides of the border, what does this week mean to you?

Sebastian Salazar:

Well, I can kind of give you the personal side of it first. I’m very much split. My dad is from upstate New York, kind of rural western upstate New York, and my mom is from Mexico City. So even our household is very much divided. And my dad is a fan of the U.S,.no doubt about it. He came to soccer late, but he’s a huge fan of the game. And the U.S. is his team. My mom taught me the game, and she loves Mexico and she doesn’t like their rivals. The U.S. is one of their rivals. So it’s a strange week on a personal level, because you feel a lot of conflicting emotions. And I think that’s kind of the center of the rivalry.

In terms of where the rivalry is now, I just think it’s an amazing kind of intersection. Mexico is kind of really honest about it, enjoying a great generation, but it’s probably, if not at their peak, kind of coming off it. And what is the U.S. team? The U.S .is this kind of explosion of potential. And so you’re kind of waiting for these two lines to cross and I feel like on both sides of the border, we’re kind of always wondering how close we are to that moment.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. It’s just a lot going on. What are you set to be doing for ESPN on Friday for the USA-Mexico broadcast?

Sebastian Salazar:

So we’ll have pre-game, halftime, post-game coverage, all that surrounding the match on ESPN2 as well as on ESPN+, they’re going to simulcast it. And we’ll have Jermaine Jones and Kasey Keller, the same guys that we had for the games in Columbus and Austin, it’s been great working with them. We’re kind of a new team starting to get to know each other, but you get those two guys over dinner and you realize they have stories for days. So my only job is to try and bring those out of them. And, I think, as we hang out more, it’s going to be better and better.

I think the pre-game show is going to have a lot of elements like it always does. We’re bouncing up to the booth, we’re using Sam Borden, who’s been our sideline reporter throughout these games. He’s got his more E:60 kind of storytelling side of things. And he’s going to dive into some interesting topics and people there. So I think from those aspects, we’re going to try to hit it from all angles. And we have an hour on the digital side, which is a real blessing. You need space for games like this. You need pre-game space. And the truth is, you work for TV stations, you know how hard it is to get on what they call linear TV. And so they can get you the game and about 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, but you can’t do U.S.-Mexico justice in 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, you need a proper hour.

So we’ll go an hour before. We’re probably going to go hours after. Fútbol Américas is going to do a special live edition right after the game as well. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. Especially in the Fútbol Américas show, we’re going to be pulling people from the Deportes side. So you’re really going to get in that moment, I think, a cool slice of where really both fandoms are at.


Fútbol with Grant Wahl is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. The best way to support my work is by taking out a paid subscription.

Subscribe now


Grant Wahl:

I think it’s really cool how your show does give us that. It’s a real look at both sides on sort of a 50-50 way, which I really appreciate to get that full context on things. I do want to ask you about the two coaches. If you’re Mexico coach Tata Martino, what are you thinking about this game? And what if you’re U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter? But I want to start with Tata. If you’re Tata, what are you thinking about this game?

Sebastian Salazar:

Are my stars going to show up? Really. Because that’s been the question with Mexico, is Chucky Lozano going to be the star player that we’ve seen him be really at the CONCACAF level, right, that elite difference maker. And the only name that I can think of in that category right now is Alphonso Davies. But can Chucky Lozano be that type of player? Can Raúl Jiménez be what he was pre-injury? He started to get some of those goals. He’s beginning to score in the Premier League, to convert that to the national team in a big significant moment against the United States. And the other real serious concern is his back line. I mean, his center back position is kind of a rotating shop right now. And I think until that gets settled, there’s real serious concerns for Mexico there.

The other point that is kind of obvious, we talk again about this young team perhaps overtaking an older team is when you look at the United States, they’re scary. They’re scary fast. They’re scary physical from a Mexican perspective, at least. And so I think, the right combination in that midfield trio, which I mean, you tell me a coach that isn’t desperate to figure that out, right? Unless it’s [Carlo] Ancelotti of Madrid, who kind of knows he has to be always going to be provided health, if you figure the right three out, man, you figured out a big part of your 4-3-3. He’s got to get younger there. He’s got to get leggier there. Because some of the guys like Andrés Guardado are just starting to show that they’re just a little too old for the speed of the international game.

So I think there’s a lot of concerns for the Mexico side. Yeah, you sit first in CONCACAF and that maybe allows you to tinker a little bit, to take some chances and get some answers in big games like this, which you can’t really replicate elsewhere. But I do think from a Mexican perspective, there are some warts under what looks like a pretty good qualifying run.

Grant Wahl:

So what if you’re Gregg Berhalter? What are you thinking about from your perspective?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. Well, the No. 9 position, man, right? It’s a position we talk about on Fútbol Américas all the time. Why now with Herc, right? You’re always going to bring up like top fives and this and that. But I think that’s been one of the running themes on the show is the top five at that position for the U.S. And I’m sure if you go back to the first one, I’m sure he’s got Jozy Altidore somewhere in there, like No. 2 or 3. And you can just see how much change there’s been since, what, we started the show not even a year ago, seven, eight months ago. So that position, really, is not just unanswered, but he’s tried so many different questions at it like beyond [Ricardo] Pepi.

And so I think, when you see Pepi in there for now, you think, “Great, listen, this kid’s amazing, and we hope the run for him continues. But you’ve got to have other options. So I’m thinking that’s a big concern for him. What you’re going to get out of your star guys too? Is Weston McKennie going to give you some of those goals that he’s been scoring for Juventus? We talked about it on the show.

To me, if you’re Mexico, you’re worried about him. He’s a big-game player. He’s a set-piece player. Set pieces for Mexico are really a nightmare, especially against the United States. For every Mexico fan, they’re a hold-your-breath moment. So Weston McKennie is a scary player for you. And then Christian Pulisic, who in other games against Mexico and honestly for this U.S. team, has been very quiet. What are you going to get from him over 90 minutes? 60 minutes? 30 minutes? Whatever you ask of him in that Mexico game, which is another big question for Gregg Berhalter. What’s the actual workload you can ask of Christian Pulisic after what we’ve seen is now kind of a cycle of him going to the national team, getting hurt, missing time with Chelsea.

Grant Wahl:

So when it comes to your show, Fútbol Américas, is it accurate to say that you’re trying to do something on the show that we see a lot more of in Mexican media than the U.S. soccer media, which is to say, having polémica, debates about the sport here?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. So first of all, I wouldn’t say it’s probably unique to Mexican soccer, right? I think you see that in a lot of different places.

Grant Wahl:

Sure.

Sebastian Salazar:

Herc is Mexican American, I’m Mexican American, most of our production team is Mexican American, Latino. so they watch ESPN Deportes. We see the content that comes out of Argentina, which is where we produce a lot of our content. But yes, the bulk of it, Mexico City, shows like Fútbol Picante, those are kind of institutions in Mexican soccer. They set the narrative for what everybody is talking about, what’s in the papers. And I’ll be honest, that’s a show that I’ve idolized since I was a kid. Since it launched, not a kid, when I’m a much younger adult when it launched and being like, “Wow, this is something that I’m going to watch every night.”

And then, to have some of those ideas and try and bring that into an English-speaking setting and talking about the things that folks north of the border care about, right? Like doing it towards MLS and doing it with Liga MX, but in English, national teams as well, the women’s national team. I think it’s a good experiment, right? We’re doing something that is maybe different and seeing if there’s a market for it. But I think it’s also an honest clash of cultures. This is something that as more and more people from Mexico and of Mexican descent end up in the United States, things are going to come with us and come with our parents, and I think there’s going to be an influence.

And I hope that this is one of those influences. And this is one that is for the better and, really, enjoyment of the people in this space.

Grant Wahl:

So what has some of the response been from some of the establishment American soccer organizations, MLS, U.S. Soccer, groups like that, to some of the criticism that does come up on your show?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah, no, I think, we haven’t had that big blow-up moment yet. I think Herc and I, when we started the show, and I’m sure you’ve had these interactions as well. We’re kind of like, “All right, when’s that coming? Because we’re going to be right on that line over and over and over again,” and we knew what we wanted to talk about. We knew that there would be times when we kind of wanted to focus on things that maybe organizations would prefer ESPN not focus on. I think that’s really the power of the show is the platform of ESPN, right?

I mean, I’d love to think that it’s the things that we do that are unique and different. But having that platform is really what serves the show. And so in some ways, when you say something on the show, you know it’s going to get out, right? You know people are going to hear it. And it’s always interesting, right? Because you can tell people aren’t listening to the podcast or watching the show live, it’s always when the tweet goes out. I know you know that. It’s when you get that email and when you get that phone call.

I think we definitely have opened some good conversations. I’ve had people texting me like, “Hey, I disagree with this. What was this supposed to mean? What was that?” And, “Hey, you’ve got to clarify what you say,” or “You have to stand by what you say,” and at least, I won’t speak for Herc, I know he does a lot of work for the show. We put a lot of work into what we’re covering and what we’re saying. We’re not going to go out there and be irresponsible. We might go out there, shoot from the hip, but we’re not going to shoot from the hip irresponsibly, if it can be done. So we try to be as prepared as we possibly can be. And so I think in that way, while some of the criticisms might feel stinging, I feel like there’s always substance to it.

And as long as there’s substance, those conversations, I think, back and forth, can be had. The conversations that are the ones that I’m not involved in, right. And I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through this, when they go straight to your bosses. And those are when you’re like, “Okay, now I know I really did something wrong.” And if they’ve gone to the bosses yet, we haven’t heard about it, so we’ll leave it there.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM MLS.com 

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USMNT-Mexico rivalry intensified by recruiting dual-national talent

5:00 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  Eric Gomez

The games between Mexico and the United States have emerged as some of the most heated on the soccer calendar. Who can forget Rafa Marquez’s harsh red on Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup or Oguchi Onyewu’s wild-west staredown with Jared Borgetti in 2005? Giovani Dos Santos’ wonder-goal at the Rose Bowl in 2011 was an instant classic — and then there’s that certain Columbus scoreline.

Yet it isn’t just on the pitch that the two sides compete. Off the field, the two federations are engaged in a battle for players that is reminiscent of recruiting in college sports. The process begins in a player’s teenage years and can extend into their 20s. Players have even moved back and forth between each country’s programs, causing euphoria or consternation within the fan bases of each country.Of late, this battle has reached a crescendo. In the past three months, LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa — both of whom were part of the U.S. U-23 team that failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — announced that they had filed one-time switches to represent Mexico. Earlier this year, Efrain Alvarez also selected Mexico after having risen through the Galaxy ranks.On the other side of the ledger, FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi, born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents, pledged his international future to the United States. He’s made an immediate impact, scoring three goals in his first four appearances.After El Tri won the majority of competitive fixtures in the 2010s, the pendulum has begun to swing back towards the USMNT after victories last summer in the CONCACAF Nations League and the Gold Cup finals. Ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), ESPN dug into the recruitment process and how both nations attempt to convince players where to pledge their international futures.

‘It all started with Dennis’

Dual nationals have long featured in U.S. squads — from Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart in the 1990s to more recently Fabian Johnson and John Brooks. Mexico, however, has been more reluctant to engage that player pipeline, preferring to rely on more homegrown talent.As such the contest for dual nationals has appeared one-sided. Over the past decade, U.S. players with Mexican roots — like Carlos Bocanegra, Omar Gonzalez, Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez — have logged over 13,000 minutes and have played in at least one World Cup. By contrast, Mexico’s total is less than 1,500 minutes among the likes of Isaac Brizuela, Miguel Angel Ponce, Alvarez and Jonathan Gonzalez.But that strategy shifted under Dennis te Kloese, who worked with the Mexico Football Federation (FMF) in a variety of technical roles from 2011-12 and again from 2014 to 2018. Speaking to ESPN, Te Kloese — now general manager for the LA Galaxy — pointed out that in the late 2000s, Liga MX teams started to be more proactive in their recruitment of American players with Mexican roots after they restructured their youth sides.”That boosted some of the activities for the youth national teams in general, but also with some scouting activities in the U.S., and scouting in Mexico,” Te Kloese said. “There ended up some players in Mexico of Mexican-American descent, and they became candidates for youth national teams.”

Emboldened by the approach, the FMF expanded its reach into the U.S. by scouting different parts of the country, especially in the talent-rich area of Southern California.”That all started with Dennis,” said Sacha van der Most, a scout based in Southern California for the FMF until 2019. “When he was at [former MLS club] Chivas USA, we went through the youth teams in the local area, looking for players who fit the mold of what [former club owner Jorge Vergara] wanted for that team, these Mexican-Americans.”The approach has allowed Mexico to make further in-roads with young talent before they latch on with a club.”In Los Angeles and Orange County, I get groups of young players with Latin American roots from all over,” said Van der Most. “But most of them are Mexican-American. You could build a powerhouse team with just local Mexican-American talent.”If a player already has ties to the United States via their youth national teams, the federation will create a plan or presentation for them in order to detail the development they could potentially make with Mexico.”We would identify them and bring them in, and all that carried over when Dennis took on his role with the Mexican federation,” added Van der Most.Despite Te Kloese’s exit from the FMF in 2018 to take the Galaxy job, his modus operandi for scouting dual nationals has remained.”[Mexico is] very aggressive,” said Joaquin Escoto, the executive VP of operations for Alianza Futbol, which holds scouting combines in the U.S. that are attended by Liga MX clubs. “They’re always comparing, ‘Is that goalkeeper better than the one I have in that age group? If so, I’m going to try to convince them to come play for us.’ And they follow up very well and very fast. If it’s a player they know they want, they don’t go dark for three months, six months. They don’t waste any time.”

Culture, language factor in recruiting pitches

When discussing the recruiting battles, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter assumes one thing. “Mexico’s going after every single player that has a Mexican and American passport,” he tells ESPN. “That’s the way we just look at the world.”Therefore, Berhalter has two primary considerations in his pitches: the extent to which the player feels a connection to the U.S., and the ability to expose them to the environment in the U.S. setup.”We’re going to be successful by not only the talent we have, but the connection we have to each other and the connection we have to representing our country,” he said. “The power of that goes a long way.”So for me, it’s first about gauging where the player is at with the U.S., how he feels about the U.S., how he feels about the group. And then it’s about our environment, how can we create an environment that players want to be in and let the environment almost speak for itself.”The U.S. has had some notable recruiting successes under Berhalter’s tenure. Barcelona defender Sergino Dest opted for the U.S. over the Netherlands, while Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah did the same despite EnglandItaly and Ghana as his other options. In both instances, there was consistent communication from Berhalter and his staff that helped establish, and then deepen, those relationships.

The same can be said about Mexico’s strategy. Hugo Perez, a former player on the USMNT’s 1994 World Cup squad and an ex-U.S. youth coach, has also spent time as a scout for Mexico. Now the manager for El Salvador‘s national team, Perez said communication between players’ families and the FMF played a key role.

“They do a good job in communicating with the families. I think that’s a big difference,” said Perez about the FMF. “I don’t think, at least from what I remember after I left, I don’t know if anybody in the U.S. does that, or has the capacity to do that.”But the language is a barrier sometimes when you go speak to parents.”Those cultural and language connections pose a special challenge when it comes to recruiting Mexican-American players. Berhalter counters that USSF scouts and youth national team coaches are initially responsible for maintaining contact with dual nationals. As those players get older, it falls on Berhalter, USMNT general manager Brian McBride and USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart. Berhalter also feels he’s better served using other avenues by which to make a connection.”I don’t even try to compete with that. It’s not our jobs,” he said regarding Mexico’s approach of highlighting cultural and linguistic commonality. “Our jobs are to show the player what we can offer them in our program, show them what our environment looks like in camp, show them where they fit in with what we do on the field. And then ultimately, we’re comfortable with their decision.”While there remains criticism that U.S. Soccer doesn’t do enough to connect with the Latino community, Brad Rothenberg, who oversees Alianza Futbol as a VP with For Soccer Ventures, senses things are changing.”I’d say it’s taken the [USSF] a long time to become a bilingual organization,” he said. “It’s not there yet, but at least they’re improving because some of their stuff is now in Spanish. That’s a very specific example of how Latino players and leagues feel disconnected from the federation. I think the grassroots license is now bilingual. And there’s some content that’s bilingual. It’s just took a while to get there.”

How Gonzalez’s Mexico switch upped the rivalry ante

What really announced Mexico’s arrival in the recruiting arena was its successful pursuit of midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez. The Santa Rosa, California native had represented the U.S. from U-15 all the way to U-20. After being left off the team that represented the U.S. at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, Gonzalez broke into the lineup at Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey in the summer of 2018.When the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there was an expectation that Gonzalez would be called up to the senior team. Caught in the transition period between full-time managers, Te Kloese pounced. He flew up to his hometown, met with Gonzalez’s family and convinced him to switch to Mexico.”[Gonzalez] wasn’t really considered by the U.S. Soccer Federation at some point, so it wasn’t a very difficult recruiting trip to be honest,” Te Kloese said.Gonzalez, who declined to speak with ESPN for this story, has seen his career for both club and country stagnate. He’s on loan at Liga MX side Necaxa and has only made a total of three senior appearances for El Tri. But at the time, Gonzalez’s decision sent shock waves through the U.S. soccer community, with considerable criticism aimed at the USSF for failing to do more to make sure a player remained within its system.The experience with Gonzalez could been seen in the recent decisions of Alvarez, Ochoa, Araujo, and Pepi.When swaying Alvarez, the FMF emphasized how his playing style would better mesh with Mexico than the United States, and how he could have success with El Tri when given the opportunity to play.”With Efra, we talked a lot about his playing style, it’s just a very Latin, Mexican style,” said Van der Most. “The United States just doesn’t play like that, it doesn’t suit him. And he saw that early on. Ultimately, there were other factors of course — Efra really wanted to play for Mexico over anything else.”But his recruitment wasn’t always pleasant. Cresencio Alvarez, Efrain’s father, complained that before his son made his choice, the constant badgering of both the national teams was “traumatizing.”“One [federation] will call him, then the other one will, and then they’ll both call him at the same time,” he said in March.Meanwhile, Ochoa’s switch cast light on the emotional strain players sometimes suffer when faced with such this decision. In his Players’ Tribune essay detailing the how and why behind his switch from the United States to Mexico, Ochoa detailed his struggle in fitting in with both groups. After experiencing both sides via youth camps, the goalkeeper remarked, “in the U.S., I was ‘the Mexican.’ In Mexico, I was ‘the Gringo.'”This is why, according to Berhalter, he applies heavy doses of empathy when discussing a player’s future, even if they end up choosing Mexico. Berhalter went as far as to say how when Araujo told him of the decision to join Mexico, he was “proud” of the decision the player made. “There’s never bad blood,” he said. “I really feel for these guys.”And all I want is for them to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. Because if we lose a player, a player you know, that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that these guys know that we have their best interests in mind.”That is not to say that Berhalter is completely reliant on a soft sell approach. Pepi mentioned that it was his conversations with the U.S. manager that helped tip the scales. While Pepi wasn’t made available for an interview, a source with direct knowledge of the recruitment process credited Berhalter with helping seal the deal.”I think that the major thing, the difference maker was the fact that Gregg picked up the phone himself,” the source said. “Gregg expressed to Ricardo how much he wanted him in the program, how much he could use Ricardo in the near future. The credit here is Gregg. That’s really what it boiled down to.”

What Te Kloese and Berhalter insist on is that during the recruiting process, no promises are made in terms of playing time or participating in a particular tournament. It can also hurt a coach’s credibility down the road if a promise is made and not kept.”There’s an equation, and the equation is happiness equals expectations over reality,” said Berhalter. “I could promise a guy or talk to a guy about his role. But if that doesn’t come to fruition in the future, eventually you’re going to have an unhappy player.”But there is a sense that the U.S. isn’t emphasizing its success stories with dual nationals of Latino decent. Perez for one, is surprised that the U.S. doesn’t make use of their former national team players.”Hire your ex-World Cup Hispanic guys who worked or played for the U.S.,” he said. “They should be ambassadors of the U.S. right now. That’s what Mexico does.”

A personal choice, or a business decision?

For the discussion of cultural connections, a key aspect gets lost in the decision — that of practical, on-field considerations. The U.S. depth chart at forward was wide open, allowing a path for Pepi to make an immediate impact, though Berhalter credits the player for taking his chance.Mexico’s depth-chart issues at goalkeeper and right-back, respectively, could allow for Ochoa and Araujo to solidify those spots in the near future, but the competition won’t be easy.”I do believe the growing parity [between Mexico and the U.S.] will be a factor for a lot of these dual national kids,” said Gomez, who played for the United States from 2007 to 2013. “How many of these kids at the end of the day, if they have equal love in their hearts for both countries, look at how each team is doing and make a business decision?”Gomez’s ex-USMNT teammate Joe Corona counters that players will just go with their gut decision over cultural connections, depth charts or on-field success.”The bottom line is, [players] go with their heart in the end,” said Corona, who was eligible to play for Mexico and El Salvador. “There are other factors, but most guys will ultimately pick the team they root for and want to play for the most.”As a former member of the Galaxy, Corona played with both Araujo and Alvarez in 2019 and 2020. He recalls their experience of being courted by the Mexican national team as very different from his. In 2011, Corona was called into camp by the USMNT right before coach Bob Bradley was fired and the call-up fell through. Only then was he contacted by Mexico.And despite one appearance for Mexico’s U-23 side, Corona said his decision to play for the U.S. was made before he had even stepped on the pitch.”I had interest from one team and then it just snowballed,” he said. “I was very young — most guys are. It was a tough decision, but I’m very happy with the choice I made.”Corona also offers some advice to the players who’ll have to make the decision soon.”From my personal experience, everything happened so quickly to me,” said Corona. “I remember when I wanted to go pro, that was the last thing I thought about, choosing between Mexico and the USA. One thing that might help is preparing kids when they’re young. Letting them know they might have to choose from a younger age. It’s a good problem to have.”

 

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

 

World Cup qualifying: What to watch in UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and more

5:00 AM ETESPN

The two-week international break might mean a pause for clubs, but it’s all systems go around the globe with World Cup qualifying and every continent is approaching the end of the road to Qatar 2022. Only three teams — including hosts Qatar, who qualify automatically — have already punched their tickets to the big show (well done, Germany and Denmark) and there are 95 nations still with a shot at securing one of the remaining spots in the 32-team field.

Europe (UEFA)

Spain in danger?
Luis Enrique’s side are starting to form an identity around a promising young core of players, but they’ve got work to do if they’re to make it to the World Cup. They are two points off Janne Andersson’s Sweden at the top of Group B and face the group leaders on Sunday, but their week begins with a trip to Euro 2004 champs Greece on Thursday

If Luis Enrique’s team get a victory in Athens, another win against Sweden on Sunday in Seville would guide them home as group winners, avoiding the pitfalls of the playoffs. But Sweden will also be gunning for that top spot, and travel to Georgia on Thursday evening (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 12 p.m. ET) hoping to maintain that slender lead at the top of the pool.

Spain will be without some key personnel — Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia are absent — but Dani Carvajal is included, making him the first Real Madrid player called up by the former Barcelona manager since March.

Ronaldo’s grudge match
Back in April, Cristiano Ronaldo was so outraged at his late winner against Serbia getting controversially overturned (there was no VAR in the opening qualifiers) that he threw his captain’s armband to the ground and stormed off at the final whistle. Sunday sees the two nations meet again in the return match in Lisbon, and World Cup qualification is on the line.

Serbia hold a one-point advantage over Portugal at the top of Group A, but Portugal have a game in hand. That extra match for Fernando Santos’ men comes against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET), who are out of the running for a spot at Qatar, but will offer resistance: Portugal needed two late Ronaldo goals to get past them in September. A result in Dublin for Portugal would mean they’d be in the driving seat for Sunday’s clash against Serbia, where Ronaldo will no doubt have a bearing on matters.

Could Italy really be dumped into the playoffs?
Italy’s match against Switzerland on Friday has all the hallmarks of a winner-takes-all clash. The two teams are locked on 14 points at the top of Group C, with both finishing off their pool stages with games they’d expect to win – Italy travel to Northern Ireland and Switzerland host Bulgaria. So it’s all eyes on Rome this week as Roberto Mancini’s European champions look to book their place in the World Cup and avoid the playoffs.

Italy’s 37-match unbeaten run came to an end in the Nations League semifinals against Spain in October, but they bounced back by beating Belgium 2-1 to take third. But they will be without a few key players in Nicola Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ciro Immobile, while Nicola Barella is an injury doubt. With their midfield depleted, Mancini could hand debuts to Lazio’s Danilo Cataldi and Torino’s Tommaso Pobega. They won’t have it easy against Switzerland, however, with Murat Yakin’s side keeping clean sheets in their last four matches – including a 0-0 draw in the return match in Basel in September.

Haaland a big miss for Norway
As Borussia Dortmund have found out over the past week, life without one of the best players in the world is tough. BVB striker Erling Haaland is out injured with a hip injury and may not be fit until Christmas, which will come as a huge blow for his country Norway as they seek to book their place at the World Cup.

Norway are two points behind Netherlands in Group G with two games remaining. Louis Van Gaal’s Oranje face Montenegro on Saturday, while Norway host Latvia. If both teams win, then the final match of the group next Tuesday in Rotterdam (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET) where the two teams meet will be fascinating. But if Norway drop any points, then they have Turkey sitting just two points behind them, looking to capitalize on any slip-ups for a playoff place.

Norway still have the likes of Martin Odegaard to help bolster their qualification hopes, but they’ll have to find a way to make up that shortfall of Haaland’s goal record — an impressive 12 in 15 appearances for the national side — in order to advance. — Tom Hamilton

North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)

Longtime rivals meet in Ohio
If there is a red-letter day for World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, it’s when United States and Mexico square off. The latest installment is set to take place this Friday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET) with both teams looking to cement their places among the three automatic qualification spots. Mexico leads the way with 14 points from six matches, and looks to be cruising towards Qatar. The U.S. is in second place, three back of El Tri.

– CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table

Yet such is the state of the standings that the U.S. is one result from being pulled back into the pack, and the memories from the failed 2018 World Cup qualifying effort still linger in the minds of some observers. The U.S. will have to make do without the likes of Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest, both injured, and a less-than-fully-fit Christian Pulisic. So with an away game against Jamaica set for the back half of this window, a victory over their bitter rivals would go a long way towards clinching qualification.

Canada‘s road to Qatar reaches a crucial point
The opening six games of qualifying have witnessed the continued rise of Canada. John Herdman’s side has already recorded credible road draws against the U.S. and Mexico, good enough for third place. The Reds have some emerging talents as well, with not only Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies in the mix, but also Lille‘s Jonathan David and the New England Revolution‘s Tajon Buchanan.

Canada has historically gotten ahead of itself at times, and this window will provide it with yet another test to see if it is for real, via home matches against Costa Rica and Mexico. A pair of wins would mean that most of the toughest fixtures are already out of the way, and clear the path towards its first successful qualification since 1986. — Jeff Carlisle

Africa (CAF)

The “Elephants” without their Eagle
Wilfried Zaha‘s absence from the Ivory Coast squad for their crunch qualifiers — including a blockbuster showdown with Cameroon — is shrouded in mystery. The Elephants boast arguably the most scintillating array of attacking talent on the continent, but will be missing star man Zaha after he was omitted by coach Patrice Beaumelle.

– Africa preview: Can youthful South Africa reach Qatar

Zaha refused to join the team in October because of “homesickness,” according to the coach, who revealed the attacker was reflecting on his international future. However, these quotes were denied by Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who expressed surprise at Beaumelle’s suggestion and told journalists that the forward still wanted to represent the Elephants.

Regardless of the dissatisfaction or misunderstanding at the root of Zaha’s absence, Ivory Coast have their work cut out to take a further step on the road to Qatar, with both Gervinho and Jeremie Boga also out. One point ahead of Cameroon with two games to play, the Elephants must face the Indomitable Lions in Douala in their final group game (stream LIVE on ESPN+, Tues. 11/16, 2 p.m. ET) — the biggest fixture of the campaign. Fail to progress, and expect fingers of accusation to be pointed at Zaha for abandoning the Elephants when they needed him most.

Will Nigeria let things slip?
Unlike Super Eagles generations of the past, Nigeria have always qualified for major tournaments under current German coach Gernot Rohr. They’ve reached three consecutive competitions and appeared firmly on course to advance to the final round (two-legged playoffs to reach the final) after being drawn into a relatively straightforward Group C. However, a shock home defeat vs. Central African Republic in October has raised concerns that the West African powerhouse may stumble again as two more tricky games await.

They lead Cape Verde by nine points to seven, but they must still host the Sharks — giant-killers on various occasions over the past six years — in their final game, and first play Liberia in neutral Tangiers on Saturday. Unlike some of Africa’s other giants, Nigeria are yet to settle on an effective playing style to see off the smaller sides, while their infamous 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone a year ago (despite being 4-0 up after half an hour) demonstrates just how vulnerable they can be.

Aubameyang vs. Salah for a World Cup spot?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears primed to go down in history alongside the likes of George Weah, Mohamed Aboutrika and Abedi Pele as an all-time African great who never got the chance to showcase his talents at a World Cup.

With Mohamed Salah‘s Egypt starting the qualifying campaign slowly, Arsenal skipper Auba — now finding form in the Premier League — could have helped Gabon take the initiative in Group F. Instead, there have been familiar lapses — notably, back-to-back away defeats and allowing Egypt to snatch a 90th-minute equaliser in Franceville — though with two games to go, they’re not entirely out of the running. In matchday five, they must defeat Libya at home and hope Egypt fall in Angola (the Pharaohs have never defeated the East Africans away) to stand any chance.

If that occurs, the Panthers would then set up a winner-takes-all showdown in Alexandria on Nov. 15, meaning we could well see Aubameyang vs. Salah for a spot in the playoffs. — Ed Dove

South America (CONMEBOL)

Colombia need to get results against Brazil and Paraguay to remain on course for a ticket to Qatar 2022. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

Expect World Cup spots to start filling up
World Cup qualifying is into the home stretch, with six matchdays remaining and four automatic spots up for grabs. Brazil and Argentina lead comfortably and will no doubt secure their spots in Qatar sooner rather than later. And Brazil can get over the line with a win against Colombia on Thursday.

– South America preview: Colombia looking to James for spark

The most contested battles are taking place below them. Ecuador are third on 17 points, while Colombia and Uruguay sit one point behind — the latter are in the fifth spot because of goal difference and would head into an intercontinental playoff if qualifying ended today. Further down, ChileBoliviaParaguay and Peru remain in contention despite their inconsistent form; Ricardo Gareca’s Peru are five points off fourth place place, with 18 points still to play for.

– CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table

Games to watch
The highlight for the upcoming window is Friday’s Clasico del Río de la Plata. Uruguay, with manager Oscar Tabarez under intense scrutiny, must win in Montevideo against an undefeated and supremely confident Argentina, the Copa America holders. If Uruguay lose, Tuesday’s game against Bolivia in La Paz will suddenly take on more challenges than just the dizzying heights of the capital.

Colombia‘s visit Thursday to Brazil is another one to watch, with the home team attempting to secure a spot in Qatar 2022. Meanwhile, Colombia has more draws than it would like in a tournament of this level and must impress in Sao Paulo with next Tuesday’s key game against Paraguay in Barranquilla looming. A win in Brazil should put Reinaldo Rueda’s Colombia in the best mood possible for Paraguay, and the return of midfielder James Rodriguez is a reason to hope. — Damian Didonato

Asia (AFC)

Where is Taremi for unbeaten Iran?
Given his star-player status in the country, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Porto striker Mehdi Taremi was omitted from Dragan Skocic’s squad for the upcoming Group A games against Lebanon and Syria. It’s since been reported that Taremi has not seen eye to eye with Skocic in recent times and failed to answer calls from team officials hoping to resolve their conflict.

– Asian preview: What’s to play for this week

There is still plenty of firepower in the Team Melli ranks, however, in the form of Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun and Feyenoord winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and two wins over the next week should still be well within their reach. Nonetheless, this issue with Taremi has longer-term implications for one of Asia’s top national teams, who gave a good account of themselves at the last World Cup and are expected to feature in Qatar next year.

– AFC World Cup qualifying tables

All to play for in Group B
Can Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start and keep Australia and Japan at bay? Although the latter two nations were expected to be the front-runners in qualifying Group B, it is Saudi Arabia who lead the way thus far as the last remaining team with a perfect record of four wins in the Asian qualifiers.

While they don’t boast as many illustrious names as their rivals — the entire squad plays in the domestic league — Saudi Arabia’s mix of experience and youth has caught the eye, and they already passed one big test with their 1-0 victory over Japan last month. Their next major hurdle is Thursday’s visit to Australia, where anything other than defeat should enhance their qualification prospects, especially given the top two are guaranteed berths at Qatar 2022.  On the other hand, perennial heavyweights Japan — the only Asian team to reach the knockout round at the last World Cup — are in desperate need of recovering from a slow start having already suffered two defeats in their opening four matches. Anything less than wins over Vietnam and Oman could spell trouble for the Samurai Blue. — Gabriel Tan

Oceania (OFC)

The qualifiers in Oceania were originally scheduled to kick off in the second half of 2020, but have faced multiple delays due to logistical challenges stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The latest update from the Oceania Football Confederation in September suggested that the remaining matches will now take place next March, potentially in the centralised, neutral venue of Qatar. — Tan

How the NWSL Semifinals Were Set—and How They’ll Be Won

The NWSL is down to four very capable contenders, each with its own winding tale of how it reached this point—and a key to determine whether a trip to the final will follow. ov. 11, 2021BY JIMMY TRAINA

Prediction: The Reign will get revenge for the October loss and edge a Spirit team that gives a valiant effort. In the end, OL’s experience and depth—particularly up front—will be too much.

Portland Thorns vs. Chicago Red Stars

5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

How the Thorns got here: Portland was widely seen as the league favorite heading into 2021, though that designation was given before the Reign’s in-season moves. And while the Thorns indeed won the NWSL Shield, holding off their Pacific Northwest rival by two points, they haven’t always looked like the top team in the league this year. It needs to be noted that just like Washington, Portland has played of late under the spotlight of being a central figure in the NWSL scandal focused on former Thorns coach Paul Riley. Longtime GM Gavin Wilkinson was officially replaced in his longtime role with the club last week as part of the fallout.

Since The Athletic broke the Riley story and the league took a player-driven break in early October, Portland has gone 1-1-3, and it scored just six goals over its final seven regular-season games. Still, the Thorns lead the NWSL in goal differential, on the back of only allowing a league-low 17. While the team traded star goalie A.D. Franch to Kansas City in August, Bella Bixby has proven to be a high-level starter between the posts, rewarded for her play with a USWNT call-up for two friendlies in Australia later this month. The attack remains daunting with the likes of Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Sophia Smith, even if it hasn’t always jelled in 2021. But on a team loaded with stars, it’s 33-year-old midfielder Angela Salem who is having the season of her life while holding down the No. 6 position, becoming the rare defensive midfielder to be nominated for NWSL MVP.

https://17bc7514ea1a4a374f0cfa695a7a48fd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html How the Red Stars got here: Chicago got off to a rough start in 2021, failing to win a game at the Challenge Cup before getting trounced 5–0 by the Thorns in the season opener. How fitting, then, that these two teams meet six months later for a spot in the championship. The May version of the Red Stars is a far cry from the current one, which has overcome injuries to Julie Ertz (who’s missed virtually the entire season) and Alyssa Naeher (out since the Olympics) to produce yet another quality side under Rory Dames.

The resurgence of two players in particular, Morgan Gautrat and Mallory Pugh, has helped drive Chicago’s season. Gautrat has performed at an MVP level in the midfield and served as an anchor of the lineup, while Pugh, finally healthy, played a career-high 23 games in the regular season and produced four goals and four assists (plus the quarterfinal game-winner) while continually being a thorn in opposing defenses’ sides. In her second year in Chicago, forward Kealia Watt has also settled in with a team-leading five goals, but that number is a reminder that, overall, this attack still uses a bit of a by-committee approach in the post–Sam Kerr era.

X-factors

Thorns: Smith has seven goals on the season, but the 21-year-old forward has just one in her last six games. Look for Portland to try to get her involved early and set the tone for the attack.

Red Stars: Sarah Gorden has been the Red Stars’ Iron Woman, playing every minute of every game in 2021. With the center back leading the defense, Chicago has surrendered just one goal across its last four games and put up nine clean sheets this season.

Prediction: Something wasn’t quite clicking for the Thorns on the field down the stretch. The Red Stars, meanwhile, are peaking at the right time, and their momentum will help them clip the home side in what’s sure to be a rousing atmosphere at Providence Park.

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.