September 6 is a huge day for all six teams in the CONCACAF region, and ASN contributing editor Jon Arnold gives you a detailed breakdown of the other two regional qualifiers on the docket today.
September 06, 2013
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The Azteca will be full when los Catrachos visit Friday night. You'd say it's the kind of match Mexico manager Chepo de la Torre has to win if he wants to keep his job, but we've seen him continue through adversity before and it's hard to see any changes being made before the Sept. 10 qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.
He has a few big decisions to make, primarily what he's going to do up top. Oribe Peralta, the Santos striker, is in prolific league form, scoring five goals in six Apertur matches. Couple that with his brace in Mexico's August friendly against the Ivory Coast and Peralta looks like an alluring option up top. His other option is Chicharito, who missed the majority of recent matches played by both Manchester United and Mexico because of a hamstring injury. He did play for United in its most recent match, and Chepo will have to decide if it's worth the risk to start Hernandez, stick with Peralta, or try to line up with both.
Chepo's other big decisions come on the back line, specifically at right back. Severo Meza played effectively for El Tri in that 4-1 win against Ivory Coast, but Hiram Mier, the 24-year-old Monterrey man, also has put in good work at the position. Chepo could also elect to start Diego Reyes alongside Hector Moreno at center back, relegating Maza Rodriguez to the bench, but dropping his captain seems unlikely.
Honduras sits just one point behind Mexico in the Hex table, currently occupying fourth place—the playoff position. There will be more than 4,000 Honduran fans in the Azteca, according to media reports, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands who will be supporting Mexico. For his part, forward Carlo Costly says the team doesn't fear the Azteca. "We only fear God; we respect Mexico." He told media upon arriving in Mexico City.
Costly himself could be key if the Hondurans are to spring an upset, though Honduras' vaunted defense has let it down more than its attack during the Hex campaign. Luis Fernando Suarez might be happy to take one point from the Azteca and will be encouraged to have Maynor Figueroa and Emilio Izaguirre healthy at the same time for the first time this year. Those two plus Victor Bernardez, Osman Chavez, Brayan Beckeles, and Arnold Peralta give the manager some options if he chooses to go with a defender-heavy lineup that would likely see Costly play as a lone forward supported by Oscar Boniek Garcia and Andy Najar on the outside.
Mexico should be able to get three points but has failed to defend the Azteca on previous occasions this season. This could be a great game to watch, and it will no doubt have an impact on if, and when, the U.S. qualifies.
Jamaica has been the Hex's whipping boy in 2013 but will be confident heading into Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Friday.
Not only did one of the Reggae Boyz' two points (in six matches) come from a draw against Panama, there's a whole new feel to the Jamaican team. For one, manager Winfried Schafer has replaced Tappa Whitmore as the manager of the team, bringing with him several players based abroad who had stopped appearing for the previous leadership. Marlon King, the veteran striker currently without a team, and Luton Shelton, playing in Russia, are among the new attacking options.
More significantly, Schafer completed a capture Whitmore started by bringing in Reading defender Shaun Cummings. He also was able to get a commitment from 29-year-old Leicester City captain Wes Morgan. Those two players, along with Donovan Ricketts—who is expected to get his 100th cap Friday—could help steer a unit that has allowed eight goals during the Hex.
Panama isn't the same team that drew in Kingston either, though the personnel remains largely the same. Julio Dely Valdes' men had a breakout performance in the 2013 Gold Cup this summer, finishing second and giving a largely first-choice side a chance to gel. Los Caneleros are attempting to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time.
The manager has cautioned against looking ahead to next week's match against Honduras, emphasizing the new-look Jamaica's experience and enthusiasm. His side should be able to cope with the attack thanks to experienced center backs Felipe Baloy and Roman Torres. Nineteen-year-old Roberto Chen is emerging as a star in the making and could play a key role. How the midfield and attack performs will determine if the team can gain any momentum from the Gold Cup, or if the Hex will bring more of the same for Panama.
Chicharito is an Oakland Raiders fan.
Trinidad and Tobago is in the OSN Cup, a series of friendlies taking place in Saudi Arabia. The first match was an exciting one with the Soca Warriors coming back from three goals down thanks to a stoppage-time equalizer from Orlando City's Kevin Molino, and losing in a long penalty shootout.
The tournament comes on the heels of news that multiple coaches in the federation aren't getting paid and players haven't received their Gold Cup bonuses, something that has new manager Stephen Hart understandably worried.
After the United States women's national team scored seven against Mexico, ProSoccerTalk's Richard Farley talked about the actual state of women's soccer in the region.
Guatemala's losing streak continued on its trip to Japan, but the World Cup-bound Samurai Blue only won by a 3-0 margin.
Video of the Week
This excellent video from KickTV's 'The Hex' series features more of Lulu the Dos Pinos cow and ASN Deputy Editor Noah Davis!
Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing Editor. Follow him on Twitter.