September 11th, 2018 marks the 17-year anniversary of a day we won’t soon forget. New York City, and our nation as a whole were attacked, resulting in the loss of 2,996 lives.
As part of the day of remembrance we get to put on our red, white and blue and cheer on our national soccer team against our cross-border rivals, Mexico. We are breaking down what you need to know heading into this match.
When: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m. Mountain
Where: Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennesse
How to watch: ESPN or Univision
Why this game matters
Any time the U.S. plays Mexico it matters. There are no such thing as friendlies between the two nations. That isn’t because we don’t respect or care for each other as a people or a nation. In fact, our fates are closely tied and we are more similar than we are dissimilar. Despite the fact that this game is a friendly, regional respect and dual national recruiting always hangs in the balance.
Our most recent example of such is Jonathan Gonzalez. The 19-year-old was born and raised in the great US of A and even played for the national youth system for years. He was talented, hard working, and even more importantly he had a desire to play for this country. However, when the call didn’t come from Bruce Arena to play in some friendlies despite his run of form for Monterrey’s Rayados, coupled with the fact that the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup, Gonzalez exercised his right to switch national allegiances per FIFA’s rules that allow such just once.
This is why this week’s game matters. There is a plethora of dual nationals who can opt to play for their parent’s homeland should they decide the U.S. isn’t good enough or doesn’t provide them a clear opportunity to compete at the highest level in the World Cup. The U.S. missed out when they lost Gonzalez, and there may very well be other players like him who will be watching this game wondering what nation they want to represent in the future.
That and it is 9/11, are we really going to let our biggest rival come beat us on our home soil on Patriot Day? I sure hope not.
What we are watching for from the U.S.
The U.S. played admirably against a powerful Brazilian team last Friday. The defense of the US held the likes of Neymar, Firmino and Douglas Costa to only 1 goal (and an undeserved pk). However, the US offense was only able to produce 2 shots on goal and neither of them tested the keeper much.
The US needs to continue to improve and develop its young attacking players. Tim Weah, Bobby Wood, and Paul Arriola need to show more fight and creativity against Mexico if the US is going to compete. The fact that Jozy Altidore is still clearly the best forward in the U.S. pool is concerning, we need more youth to start pushing the veterans for those roles. The defense will show well, but can the offense score?
What we are watching for from Mexico
Mexico, like the U.S., played last weekend against a Conmebol powerhouse in Uruguay. Unlike the U.S., however, Mexico decided against playing defense. They lost to Luis Suarez and company to the tune of 4-1 in front of a very pro-Mexico crowd in Houston, Texas. Mexico will be looking to lick their wounds and grab a quick win to keep their fanbase from turning on them.
Chucky Lozano is the most dangerous and in-form player for El Tri at the moment, expect them to find his feet early and often as they try to get their attack humming against a young U.S. backline. Also, as mentioned, expect to see Jonathan Gonzalez get up for this game as he tries to establish his role in the Mexican national team and justify his decision to walk away from his U.S. counterparts. He played with many of the U.S.’s current roster throughout the youth system and knows them all very well.
There will be patriotism on full display and fireworks from both teams. I expect a 2-2 draw.