USA v. Mexico
Of course the Mexico match is also officially meaningless, but this rivalry has developed to the point where there's no such thing as a "friendly." Just a look at the rosters proves this point. Both teams have called in substantial additions from Europe to bolster their squads. Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Convey, and Clinton Dempsey have flown in for the U.S., while Mexico counters with Rafa Marquez (who looked fully fit for Barcelona in Sunday's draw with Osasuna), and Ricardo Osorio. In addition, new coach Hugo Sanchez has brought in a number of older players (Jared Borgetti, Cuauhtemoc Blanco) who aren't expected to be key figures in Mexico's 2010 World Cup qualifying plans.
"Obviously I think it's a statement that they take this game very seriously," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "We will wait to see, obviously, the decision in terms of who they put on the field to start."
Of course the U.S. has owned Mexico recently, compiling a 7-2-1 record since 2000 and going unbeaten in seven straight contests at home. If Bob Bradley can break his maiden against our southern neighbors on his first attempt it will be a significant step towards removing the interim tag from his title.
Other highlights from this afternoon's conference call:
On the rivalry with Mexico:
I have an expression that I use with the players a lot. When you're in a camp, at the end of the camp when you have a match the spotlight comes on. The spotlight in those 90 minutes tells a lot about everything that went on in the camp. We certainly know that when we play Mexico at the University of Phoenix stadium with the crowd that's anticipated, that spotlight will come on very, very brightly. ... Bruce always made sure that those teams really went after Mexico, and I think that's an important thing for us to be thinking about for Wednesday.
On Claudio Reyna's retirement:
I think Claudio is gong to be a very, very difficult player to replace. He had the ability to control the tempo of the game. His pure skill on the ball allowed him at times to slow the game down and give the game some pause when it was necessary. That's something that we'll need time to develop. We all recognize that Claudio has been a very special player for our national team, and certainly replacing him is a big challenge.
On the enigmatic Eddie Johnson:
Eddie is still a young player who we feel we must invest some time in. I think, like many other young players, when there's some early success then at times that also creates pressure, and with it there are ups and downs. We are trying hard just to create a good understanding with Eddie on what we expect everyday, trying hard to challenge him in training, show him little things. We still feel that he has come into camp with a good attitude, a good mentality to learn, and we feel that all of that bodes well for the future.
On his Mexican counterpart Hugo Sanchez:
Like everyone else, I read some of the quotes that come out of the Mexican camp, and I certainly can say that the mentality of Hugo Sanchez is to erase some of the results. That shows his competitiveness, which has always marked his career.
On being an interim coach:
I have not allowed this interim thing to factor into any part of it. I feel good with the work that [assistant coaches] Peter Nowak and Mike Sorber and Zach Abdel and myself have done, and now we are anxious to put it out on the field in an important game.
Folks will be gathering locally Wednesday evening at Brit's Pub to watch the match. Television coverage on ESPN2 and Univision begins at 8 p.m. CST.