June 5, 2011

US Set To Meet Mexico

The USWNT will meet Mexico in final preparation for the 2011 World Cup today in Harrison, New Jersey.

While this game is a friendly, what happened seven months ago today will not be lost among the players taking the field this afternoon. The United States, then considered a shoe-in for one of the two automatic Concacaf WC positions faced Mexico on November 5. Most people thought the US would win and it would be Mexico that would face Costa Rica and then Italy for a shot at the final World Cup position.

Well, that's not what happened. Mexico outplayed the US on that day and won 2-1, later losing a close match in the Concacaf finals to Canada, while it was the United States that had to sweat out three more matches to qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

Mexico has been quite the busy team since then. After the Concacaf qualifiers, they played a tough tournament in Sao Paulo, in which they faced the host team Brazil, Canada, and Holland twice. While they lost all four matches, it was against top flight competition and Mexico served notice that they could at least be competitive.

Mexico followed that with a 2-0-2 record at the Cyprus Cup and were unbeaten in four friendlies facing Costa Rica and Colombia each twice. So they have a 6-0-2 record in 2011.

The United States has been up and down. They won at Algarve, but lost to Sweden at the Four Nations in China. They also were beaten in a friendly with England. They recently defeated Japan twice, once looking rather mediocre and the other match looking quite good at times.

The US does not have anymore "official" matches on the schedule, although there are likely to be unofficial scrimmages after they leave for Europe. Mexico has friendlies scheduled against both Sweden and Australia just prior to the start of the World Cup.

It will be interesting to see how the US chooses to attack Mexico, since they did not look very good in the last contest between the two teams. Meanwhile, Maribel Dominguez was able to expose the US back line at times throughout the match.

These two sides are very familiar with each other, not only from friendlies between them, but also because several members of Mexico's roster played college soccer here in the US, including Teresa Noyola, Alina Garciamendez, and Veronica Perez.

Pia Sundhage has approached the final preparation games just as she would a World Cup game, making few changes in her starting lineup. Mexican coach Leonardo Cuellar is still experimenting trying to find the right combinations he wants to use in Germany.

In spite of it being a friendly, the rematch of the Concacaf semifinal match should make for some compelling soccer today at Red Bull Arena.