Mexico won the most recent CONCACAF Gold Cup this past summer and the U.S. won the 2013 edition of the tournament. As a result this one game playoff was necessary to determine which team will represent CONCACAF at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
This match is a playoff: a winner must be decided. If the score is tied after 90 minutes, the teams will play the standard two 15-minute periods of extra time and, if necessary, a winner will then be decided via penalty shootout.
The atmosphere for the match should be intense, although the crowd shouldn't be as Pro-Mexican as previous USA-Mexico games in California. According to US Soccer, 30% of tickets were allocated for each team's supporters (total of 60%) group in hopes of producing a more balanced atmosphere. Nonetheless, "more balanced" support is still expected to be overwhelmingly Pro-Mexican.
Mexico (27) and USMNT (29) are currently the two highest-ranked CONCACAF teams in the FIFA rankings. While El Tri appears to be slightly better than the USA on paper and in terms of the form that is reflected by FIFA's rankings, Mexico is dealing with several problems.
Mexico fired head coach Miguel Herrera in late July after it was reported he had assaulted an Azteca TV reporter. The Mexican federation will announce former Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio as the new head coach of the national team after this match. For this game, the team will be guided by interim head coach Ricardo Ferretti. Osorio's term in charge of El Tri will start in triumph or disaster.
The Mexican team is also struggling with injuries: midfielders Giovani Dos Santos and Jose Juan Vazquez have been ruled out of the match. Star midfielder Andres Guardado has just returned from an ankle injury and played 71 minutes for PSV Eindhoven this past weekend. Captain Rafael Marquez is scampering to be fit for this match. Considering the importance of this match, do not be surprised to see Marquez to play.
Defenders (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
Midfielders (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Goalkeepers (3) -Moises Munoz (Club America/Mexico); Alfredo Talavera (Toluca/Mexico); Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey/Mexico)
Defenders (8) - Paul Aguilar (Club America/Mexico); Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad/Spain); Rafael Marquez (Hellas Verona/Italy); Hector Moreno (PSV Eindhoven/Netherlands); Miguel Layun (Porto/Portugal); Hector Herrera (Porto, Portugal); Arturo Rivas (Tigres/Mexico); Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres/Mexico)
Midfielders (5) - Israel Jimenez (Tigres/Mexico); Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven; Netherlands); Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon/Mexico); Javier Aquino (Tigres/Mexico); Jonathan Dos Santos (Villarreal/ Spain)
Forwards (7) - Oribe Peralta (Club America/Mexico); Raul Jimenez (Benfica/Portugal); Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad/Spain); Carlos Esquivel (Toluca/Mexico); Jesus Corona (Porto/Portugal); Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen/Germany); Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy/United States)
A key matchup will be the battle between former Red Bulls Rafael Marquez and Jozy Altidore. At age 36, the veteran Marquez is likely nearing the end of his career. Altidore has struggled this year, but he should dominate Marquez physically and could score his first goal against Mexico. The USMNT should look to attack Marquez especially considering that he may not be 100% fit.
The often porous USMNT defense will likely have trouble containing Mexican forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. Chicharito is a lethal poacher who is dangerous in the air despite his small stature and is deceptively quick. The U.S. needs to limit the time Chicharito spends its penalty area and U.S. defenders should look to take advantage of Hernandez's lack of physical strength.
Whichever team wins the midfield battle will win this match. Michael Bradley and Andres Guardado will dictate the play for each of their respective teams. The U.S. will need Bradley to play up to his potential - he has struggled during many of the USMNT's 2015 matches.
Guardado will either lineup in on the left side or in the center of midfield. Either way the U.S. will need to contain him. Guardado was Mexico's best player at the Gold Cup and the 28 year old veteran is an important leader for El Tri. He may not be as effective as usual as this is just his second match back after being injured.
Klinsmann knows this will be an important match. He has frequently discussed the importance of playing at the 2017 Confederations Cup. His job will still be safe with a loss, but the calls for him to be fired will only grow louder if his team doesn't win this one.
USMNT should be the best team in CONCACAF - especially at the moment, with Mexico in disarray on and off the field - and a victory in this game would be a step in the right direction for Klinsmann's under-performing team. The USA was embarrassed at this summer's Gold Cup. A win would help restore confidence.
This should be a physical, fast game played in a raucous atmosphere. USMNT would surely delight in another Dos a Cero victory, but I see Mexico winning 2-1.