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USMNT and Mexico set to square off in massive World Cup qualifier

Fresh off the 3-1 defeat in Costa Rica, the USA will look to bounce back in huge match against its arch-rival Mexico.

U.S. National Team vs. Mexico
2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying; CONCACAF regional tournament
September 10, 2013, 5 pm PT; Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

When it comes to the CONCACAF region, it doesn’t get much bigger than a U.S.-Mexico game, especially with a trip to the World Cup hanging in the balance.

On Tuesday, the two reeling sides will meet at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio – one with an eye on clinching a berth in the 2014 World Cup, the other looking to turn its fate after a disheartening home loss that caused a coaching change.

However, the U.S. isn’t about to take Mexico lightly despite a 2-1 home defeat to Honduras on Friday, a result that saw Chepo de la Torre fired and replaced by one of his assistant coaches, Luis Fernando Tena.

“Mexico is a team that has quality and we need to make sure that we prepare properly,” said Sounders FC and US forward Clint Dempsey. “Every game at home is a must-win. We need to get those points at home if we have any hopes of qualifying for a World Cup, so we won’t treat it any different than that.”

Mexico may be in transition after going just 1-1-5 in the first seven matches of the Hexagonal Round, but it still has plenty of top-quality talent, namely forwards Giovani Dos Santos of Villareal and Javier Hernandez of Manchester United.

For all of its strength, though, Mexico will be playing without three-time World Cup veteran Gerardo Torrado, who will be serving a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.

For all Mexico may miss without its most experienced player, the U.S. will also be playing without key components in suspended Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron and injured midfielder Michael Bradley, whose absence was particularly felt in a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica on Friday.

“When you have any player missing, it changes the dynamic. There are a lot of players that play big roles on this team and Michael does that for us,” Dempsey said. “But we also have other players that need to step up to the plate and make sure that we can get the job done.”

One of those players for the U.S. has been Eddie Johnson. The Sounders FC forward has 13 appearances this year under Klinsmann and is a likely candidate to see significant time on Tuesday.

While it may not have health or discipline on its side, the U.S. does have a distinct home-field advantage at Crew Stadium. In nine-matches at the first stadium built specifically for an MLS club, the U.S. is 6-0-3. In their last three World Cup qualifying matches against Mexico, the U.S. has emerged with a 2-0 victory in each match.

The aim of the American squad on Tuesday is to continue that trend of success, which would clinch a trip to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A win in any of its final three matches will send it to the World Cup, but it hopes to qualify sooner than later.

“We want to steer toward the World Cup. We want to qualify as quickly as possible and we know we still have work to do,” Klinsmann said. “This is an exciting moment. Playing Mexico is always special. I think it’s going to be exciting.”