Important Two Games for the U.S.

By JACK HAZZARD

US logoThe United States men’s national team, after a disastrous start to qualifying that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job as coach, still has six games ahead in its bid to play in its eighth straight World Cup, next year in Russia.

The U.S. lost its first two games in the Hexagonal, the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, but has since bounced back in Bruce Arena‘s second go-round as national team coach with a win and a tie ahead of this week’s two matches — against Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night, and at Mexico on Sunday night.

Trinidad and Tobago

The match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colo. (7:50 p.m. Eastern, Fox Sports 1, UniMás, UDN), should present the U.S. with its best opportunity for three points. T&T is last (with losses to Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras; and one win, against Panama) in the Hexagonal table (above) and the U.S. still has two games against it.

That is not to say that T&T is not dangerous. The Atlanta United and former Premier League striker Kenwyne Jones gives his side a strong and relentless attacker up top. Joining Jones in the attack are Minnesota United’s Kevin Molino and Seattle’s Joevin Jones. In the defense, the former FC Dallas center back Aubrey David and current Colorado outside back Mekeil Williams are quick and difficult to penetrate. All that said, T&T probably does not have the quality throughout its starting selection and on the bench to challenge the U.S. for 90 minutes.

Prediction: U.S., 3-1

Mexico

After playing Trinidad and Tobago at altitude (where the American team has been training for the past week), the U.S. travels to Mexico (8:30 p.m. Eastern; Fox Sports 1, Univisíon, UDN) for another game at altitude — in Azteca Stadium, where the U.S. has never won a qualifier.

Mexico is unbeaten and leads the group, though El Tri faces a jam-packed schedule in World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Coach Juan Carlos Osorio has said that he plans to shuffle his lineups through the coming months, though the game against the U.S. usually means a strong roster. Osorio plans to stick with stars like Javier Hernández, Rafa Márquez, and Andrés Guardado.

For the U.S., a point would be acceptable, a win would be monumental.

Prediction: Mexico, 2-1