MEXICO CITY: Christian Pulisic admitted the United States are looking for revenge when they face bitter regional rivals Mexico in a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier here Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Borussia Dortmund star Pulisic, still only 18, has breathed fresh life into the US qualifying campaign this year and scored twice in a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in Colorado on Thursday.
The 18-year-old’s sixth and seventh international goals, which followed a mesmerising display against Honduras in March, have revived a US qualifying campaign which began last year with back-to-back defeats.
The first of those losses came against the Mexicans in Columbus, Ohio, last November, a politically-charged encounter which occurred just days after the election of US President Donald Trump.
Trump’s recent history of stinging anti-Mexico rhetoric means that the latest instalment of the most intense rivalry in North American football is certain to have an added edge before a full house at Mexico City’s iconic Azteca Stadium, which regularly draws crowds of 100,000.
Pulisic, however, is only thinking of the result and taking all three points off Mexico, who are leading the six-team final round of CONCACAF qualifiers by a five-point margin with 13 points from five games.
“It’s going to be a tough one down there definitely but we really want revenge on them for when they got us earlier in the campaign,” Pulisic said, referring to the last-gasp 2-1 loss in Columbus.
“We’re really confident going into that game and we’ll come out with a win there too,” Pulisic added bullishly of the trip to Mexico.
No bigger game
US captain Michael Bradley summed up the stakes of what is involved when the Americans face their neighbors across the southern border.
“For us there’s no bigger game,” Bradley said following Thursday’s win. “With three important points under our belt tonight, it sets up nicely. We can go there and be ready to give them a real game in an amazing stadium.”
Recent history augurs well for Bruce Arena’s side. The Americans battled to a 0-0 draw at the Azteca during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and won a friendly at the stadium 1-0 in 2012.
This time around a point would probably be a satisfactory result for Arena, who is mulling changes to his line-up following the exertions of playing at altitude in Colorado on Thursday.
“I think we have to see how our players recover,” Arena said. “We have a sense of where guys will be after this game (Thursday) and realize we’ll need some new bodies on the field on Sunday.
“We’ve been training that way for the last week to ten days. We have that plan in place. We might make a couple changes to that, but we’re pretty set on what we’re going to do on Sunday.”
Mexico meanwhile warmed up for Sunday’s game with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Honduras on Thursday. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio rested stalwarts Rafael Marquez and Javier Hernandez, but both are expected to return to face the Americans on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a very important game against difficult opponents,” said Osorio, who is also preparing Mexico for this month’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.