The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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U.S. coach under pressure against Mexico

Interim head coach of the U.S. national men’s soccer team, Bob Bradley, had a good debut at the Home Depot Center in Carson last month when his team defeated a respectable Denmark squad 3-1. Bradley is looking good so far in the eyes of the U.S. Soccer Federation, but he will be under more pressure tonight.

Of all teams to face in just his second game as head coach, Bradley will go against rival Mexico in Phoenix, Arizona at 6:00 p.m. But Bradley is not the only one under pressure.

The Mexican squad is now under the leadership of Hugo Sanchez, newly signed head coach and considered to be the greatest soccer player Mexico has ever produced. He will be coaching his first game, which he views as a “must win” match, he told Mexican media outlets.

Tonight’s match is not a “must win” for Bradley, but it is still an important one. The USSF will see how their new coach performs under pressure. Facing a Mexican team in Arizona, which will be a predominantly pro-Mexico crowd, is going to be tough for Bradley. It is not the wisest decision for the USSF to put a new coach against a tough rival in a hostile environment, but it definitely is a great test.

Bradley decided to go with a mix of veterans and young players, while Mexico fields a more experienced squad. He will most likely go with Tim Howard between the posts, due to his experience in the English Premier League with Everton. The defensive captain will most likely be Carlos Bocanegra, who also plays in England with Fulham. Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids) will command the midfield, along with young, versatile midfielders Bobby Convey (Reading, England) and Clint Dempsey (Fulham). And the player to create scoring opportunities and finish plays up front will be Landon Donovan (Galaxy).

Those will be the most important players for the team. It will be interesting to see how they will play against Mexico. With speed and creativity at the front, the U.S. will most likely play a slow-paced game and be patient for any holes in the defense, which will be difficult to do. Mexico is fielding a solid defense lead by Rafael Marquez (Barcelona, Spain) and Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Holland).

The U.S. may stay back and wait for any counterattack to get the Mexican defenders off their guard, which is possible with the speed of Convey and Dempsey and the skill of Donovan. They must take advantage of any set piece opportunities they get.

Expect Bradley’s defense to be solid and physical with Mexico’s forwards. Jared Borgetti (Cruz Azul, Mexico) is dangerous on crosses and set pieces. He will most likely receive double coverage. But the team has to be mindful of intelligent striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco (America, Mexico) and the speed of Omar Bravo (Guadalajara, Mexico) and Alberto Medina (Guadalajara, Mexico).

With Bravo and Medina, Mexico has plenty of skill and speed on the flanks, which they like to use often. Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA) is a young, quick defender that can cover the left flank, but the U.S. will likely require help from the midfield on the right side.

This game is Bradley’s chance to show he is the right man for the job. After the 2006 World Cup, Bruce Arena was let go and the USSF pursued former German soccer star and coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Negotiations with Klinsmann failed when he announced his name to be removed from consideration for the job. Bradley, who coached expansion team Chivas USA to its first postseason last season, was given the job as an interim head coach, and is being observed carefully by the USSF to see if he is the man to coach the U.S. into the 2010 World Cup.

It will be a difficult task for Bradley to defeat Mexico, but history is on his side. Mexico has not been able to beat the U.S. outside of smoggy Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium since 1999. Mexico not only struggles to win away from home, but also struggle offensively, failing to score any goals in six losses and one tie against the U.S.

More pressure is on Mexico and Sanchez to get over its winless streak over the U.S. But some pressure of continuing that streak will definitely be on Bradley. Starting with a win over Denmark is a good start, but starting with a win over Mexico would make a great start for Bradley and for the U.S. soccer team.

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