Smack up against it: U.S. clash with Mexico could get ugly

6 Comments

While considering a U.S.-Mexico clash that has the potential to get gruesome, I thought of a line from Band of Brothers (the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV.)

In the early, chaotic stages of Germany’s desperate last push, a U.S. general asks for a no-BS assessment of the encircled 101st in the Ardennes Forest. The picture he gets is rather bleak; out-numbered, out-gunned and ill equipped is the gist.

Thing is, the Americans have no choice. This is their situation. So the general has an unsympathetic directive, never mind the odds: “Hold the line … There’s a lot of [stuff] headed this way.”

Anybody else see the connection here? Anybody else feel like the young U.S. contingent are in over their heads the minute they de-bus tonight at Estadio Azteca, encircled, out-muscled and ill equipped personnel-wise?

I get the feeling that Jurgen Klinsmann wandered into an unseen thicket here. He deserves respect for wanting worthy tests like this. He craves wins, but only useful ones; holster notches against regional lightweights and middleweights just aren’t his thing.

But I rather suspect that Klinsmann didn’t see this coming, a cascade of luckless circumstance that leaves some top, young U.S. prospects with no place to hide. There’s just not enough reinforcement from wiser hands.

The team’s best two defenders (Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo), best midfielder (Michael Bradley) and best attacker (Clint Dempsey) won’t be getting off that bus. They remain in Europe. Others, too.

So the back line is a stitchwork of young talent with degrees of defensive preparedness at this level that varies from “not much” to “pretty much nil.” You don’t need to be Guus Hiddink to understand, that’s hardly a favorable range. Chicharito awaits. And he has talented friends.

There’s some bite and useful bull-headedness in the U.S. midfield in guys like Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, although not enough speed or passing ability to keep up with the up-tempo, fluid Mexican interchange that’s coming.

At forward? I’m not sure it matters, because Klinsmann’s men won’t have the ball much. If they get 40 percent of possession time, I’ll consider that a mild victory in itself.

So that’s where it is. “Hold the line … There’s a lot of [stuff] headed this way.”

Some other good reading on tonight’s match: The official game preview from U.S. Soccer, stacked pancake-high with stats and facts, is here.

Jack Bell at some of the New York Times looks at some of the numbers and the history in the series.

Respected colleague Kyle McCarthy looks at the faith Klinsmann is putting in his young players here at Goal.com.

There’s plenty of ProSoccerTalk material to review, as well, like Tim Howard’s brave outlook. There’s also Landon Donovan’s continued flirtation with Mexico and an ongoing narrative of the “gap” between U.S. soccer and Mexican soccer that I say is a wee bit oversold.