If you’re a fan or around conversations about USA and Mexico soccer, there’ll be one date you’ll hear thrown around…

October 10.

Dubbed the CONCACAF Cup, it’s a one-game playoff between the USMNT against El Tri, deciding who qualifies for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia; the warm-up tournament to the 2018 World Cup.

That’s the big date Mexico set when they won the CONCACAF Gold Cup last July; the tournament where the United States finished fourth.  Jurgen Klinsmann has stressed earlier this year that winning the Gold Cup was a big priority, and yet they finished with losses to Jamaica in the semifinals and Panama in the consolation game.

With the first set of international matches since that tournament over and done with, Mexico and the USA are on two different trajectories ahead of their clash at the Rose Bowl.

The US are coming off a humbling 5-1 loss against Brazil, where they were thoroughly out-classed in every way possible and looking about as bad as you would playing yet another experimental lineup against a national team filled with world-class talent.

With all the criticism being thrown at the team, it isn’t very assuring to respond with arguably the worst performance by the United States in quite a while.

And once again, we are left asking questions.  There are questions about Jurgen Klinsmann, whether his defiant and borderline stubborn personality will indeed bear fruit.  At times it has.  At times it hasn’t.

What’s the right holding midfield combination?

Against Brazil, the experimental midfield was a failure.  Jermaine Jones, who Klinsmann has mentioned as one of the important cogs in the midfield, was not in full fitness and could not keep up with anyone.  It’s unsure whether if, even at full fitness, he’ll be able to keep up on the international level anymore. Bedoya couldn’t even last a half as he was substituted in the 35th minute.  Both could do nothing against the likes of Neymar, Wilian, Hulk, and Douglas Costa.

An issue from the Gold Cup continued: what is the right center-back combination?

Once the Brazil players pushed forward past the midfield, the backline was a complete dud.  Geoff Cameron conceded a penalty.  There was no organization among the center-back pairing of Ventura Alvarado and Michael Orozco.  Both looked incredibly overmatched.

Veteran Matt Besler has not featured for the US since the January camp, and in his place has been a hodge-podge of different combinations from Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, to John Brooks and Alvarado.  The latter pair was looked at by analysts as one glaring issue during the Gold Cup.

Gonzalez, who paired with Besler at center-back during an impressive World Cup run last year, was not impressive against Peru and was an unused sub against Brazil.

ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman has previously mentioned in order to take down the powerhouse countries, the US has to maintain some form of possession.

The US could not keep the ball whatsoever and Brazil looked every bit the world-class team that they are.  Whenever the US did have the ball, they weren’t really a legitimate attacking threat.  Counter-attacking runs amounted to nothing.  Passes were intercepted easily, giving the five-time champions the ball once again.

It was hit right on the dot that when playing against Mexico, the US does give away a lot of possession.  Will they be able to survive playing that way when the midfield and defense hasn’t been able to hold up?

With Klinsmann’s penchant for experimentation on display, is method of using players outside of their natural position beneficial?

It must be tough playing one position for club and a completely different one for country, which has been a pattern during Klinsmann’s tenure.  Last year, Michael Bradley was put in an advanced position in the midfield, when he’s been better as someone lying deep to create offense out of the back.  The result was a subpar World Cup from the captain.  Bedoya isn’t a natural holding midfielder and is more suited to an attacking role. Cameron is a natural center-back and was deployed by Klinsmann as a right-back.

Brad Guzan has been named the goalkeeper for the Mexico match.  Is his job still safe after Brazil found the back of the net four times?

To be fair, one of Brazil’s goals was off a penalty, and most people will blame the defense as the main culprit.  But with Tim Howard sitting on the bench, and we all know his pedigree with the national team, does it push Klinsmann enough to make the change?

Until when will keep relying on Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey for scoring?

While Altidore is still fairly young, he’s had troubles the last few years with his hamstring.  Dempsey isn’t getting any younger and still remains the team’s main creative force.  That was none more evident then during the Gold Cup, where the former captain was seemingly the team’s only legitimate attacking threat.

If not them, who do you go to?  Landon Donovan is long gone.  Flashes of brilliance by Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris has brought hope for the future, but nothing has been sustained.  Gyasi Zardes has continued to improve on the international level, but has the tendency to be a little streaky with his goalscoring.

All these questions linger for the US and meanwhile, Mexico looks to be on the rise once again.  In their first set of matches since Miguel Herrera was fired, a lot of eyes were on El Tri and whether it’d affect their play. A 3-3 draw to Trinidad and Tobago saw a glimmer of a fight out of El Tri; it was something sorely missing from the team even during the successful Gold Cup.  They led against Argentina 2-0 before seemingly losing concentration in the final ten minutes of the match and settling for a 2-2 draw.

Under interim coach Ricardo Ferretti, it seems that a focus and all the chips will be laid on the October 10 match.  Once that’s out of the way, Mexico will focus on building the system with a new coach that they have yet to name.

Overall they’ve just looked like the better team.

Twellman probably has it right when he says that the Mexico match on October 10 will probably be the “tipping point” of Klinsmann’s tenure as manager of the US.  If they lose the match and Mexico moves on, is his job as safe as we all thought it once was?

It’s been a roller coaster ride with Klinsmann.  From the historic 2013 run, there was the saga with Landon Donovan.  From the high of getting out of the Group of Death, there were criticisms about his lineup choice against Belgium. From the euphoria of the victories on the road against the Netherlands and Germany, there was the Gold Cup and the disappointment that followed.

All eyes will be on the latest chapter of the USA-Mexico rivalry at the Rose Bowl.

Will the USA pull off another Dos A Cero, or will we finally hit rock bottom and make a change?

About The Author

NBA & MLS writer for Game 7 Network. Former host of The Half Court Heave Podcast, and was a writer for Laker Nation. LA-born, Philippine-raised, Las Vegas-living.

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