International Soccer
By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
U.S. has nothing to lose in Mexico
The United States last played a friendly in Mexico on Oct. 17, 1984.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jurgen Klinsmann called a friendly against Mexico on Wednesday an "amazing opportunity." A chance the United States coach knows is a win-win situation. Even if the Americans have never won in Mexico.

The United States has not voluntarily gone to Mexico for an international game in almost three decades. With no wins, 23 losses and just one draw in 24 games in Mexico, it is easy to understand why.

So, naturally, Klinsmann scheduled a game at the 105,000-seat house of horrors - the famed Estadio Azteca in Mexico City - against the Mexican national squad for another marquee match early in his stint as U.S. coach.

"With the game in Mexico City," he said, "it's a great benchmark to have."

Although the United States has done well in recent history against Mexico, the most notable a 2-0 victory in the knockout stage of the 2002 World Cup, visits to its neighbor have been anything but friendly.

The Azteca is one of the biggest stadiums in the world. And the fans are among the most intimidating. Even U.S. defender Fabian Johnson, who is used to games in large stadiums in Germany, called its size "crazy."

"It's going to be a crazy environment," U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu agreed.

Some might think "crazy" describes Klinsmann, especially for scheduling a game in Mexico. But since Klinsmann became coach in July 2011, the former World Cup winner for Germany has sought out every challenge possible.

The United States last played a friendly in Mexico on Oct. 17, 1984. Fourteen, yes 14, players on the current U.S. roster were not even born. Since that day, the Americans have only returned for official events.

The United States earned its lone result - a 0-0 tie in World Cup qualifying - in Mexico in 1997. It has since lost four matches, including three qualifiers, by combined scores of 10-2.

Klinsmann, with a roster void of many of his top players, will get to test the squad he has assembled in an atmosphere he cannot duplicate otherwise. Really, would one more loss in Mexico matter? Of course not.

But there remains one clear objective for Klinsmann - to take advantage of the "amazing opportunity."

"At the end of the day," Klinsmann said, "I want to win games, so I want to win on Wednesday night against Mexico."

That, actually, is the real opportunity.

Klinsmann took the United States to Italy for a friendly earlier this year and under expectations bearing no more weight than ant hill, defeated Italy on its home soil, 1-0, in February. A few months later, Italy made the Euro final.

Now, just weeks after Mexico won its first Olympic gold, the United States can take the spotlight from its rival. "At the moment," Klinsmann said, "Mexico is a step ahead of us."

One win in Mexico is all the United States needs to reverse that order.

"To beat them and being the first team to ever do it would be pretty special," U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said.

Beasley, just four appearances short of 100 for the United States, admitted it will be a new experience for the overall young American roster. But there also was no need to explain just how important this friendly was for the Americans.

"They know it's Mexico; they know it's Azteca," Beasley added. "That's all the motivation they need to put on a good performance."

Ninety minutes could erase a history dating back 75 years to the first game in Mexico in 1937, a 7-2 victory for the hosts in Mexico City.

"It's one of the biggest games for us," Edu added, "and we use that as our own personal motivation.

"If we get a win (in Mexico), it's a big deal for us and that's what we're all looking to do on Wednesday night."

Why not now? The United States has nothing to lose.

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