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List of Americans Abroad

Kljestan shines in dull U.S. victory over Sweden.

CONCACAF draw has Americans facing Mexico to open final round of qualifying.

Cooper, Adu lead U.S. to dominant, if meaningless, decision over Guatemala.

Qualifying loss to ascendant T&T means little to U.S. men.

Cooper says no to invitation to join U.S. team in qualifying.

U.S. bursts into final round of qualifying by demolishing Cuba 6-1.

Improved U.S. attack sinks T&T, nears advancement to final qualifying round.

Americans score first victory in Guatemala in ugly qualifier.

High security follows Americans around Guatemala City.

Qualifying semifinals begin with trip to unfriendly Guatemala.

U.S. methodically closes out Barbados to advance in qualifying.

Against weak foe, U.S. attack finally finds itself in 8-0 qualifying rout of Barbados.

Howard saves U.S. men in 0-0 draw with Argentina in match of tired teams.

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U.S. men

Final round of World Cup qualifying opens with weakened Mexico.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Monday, February 9, 2009) -- The United States men begin the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by meeting their bitter rival Mexico on Wednesday in Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium, a 7 p.m. (ET) start to be televised by ESPN2.

The six-nation, round robin, with each team playing 10 games, finishes in October with the top three teams proceeding directly to South Africa and the fourth-place finisher facing South America's fifth-place team in a two-match series to decide another berth.

Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago are the other participants in the final group.

The U.S. must be considered a solid favorite on Wednesday. It comes into the match basically healthy with key players such as striker Landon Donovan, midfielder Clint Dempsey, defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu, and goalkeeper Tim Howard enjoying positive seasons in Europe, while some of Mexico's best players have not had good years. Additionally, several Mexicans are injured and three key players are suspended.

The American squad will look much like the one that played in most of the semifinal-round qualifiers. Although U.S. manager Bob Bradley will not announce his starters until just before match time, it is likely that Howard will be in goal, Bocanegra, Onyewu, and Heath Pearce will be on the back-line, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan and Dempsey will be in the midfield with Donovan and Brian Ching up front.

The only change from the usual starting 11 will be at right back where German-based Steve Cherundolo will be missing. He strained his right hip in Hannover 96's exhibition game against Osnabrück January 10 and hasn't played since. He likely will be replaced Wednesday by veteran Frankie Hejduk, who has played well against Mexico in the past.

As is often the case, one question about the U.S. formation will be where exactly will Donovan play. He will be listed as a forward, but likely will play in a withdrawn position and possibly wide instead of in the middle. When that does happen, Dempsey often will slot in front of him, or the Americans will go with just Ching on top and have Dempsey, Donovan and Beasley running out of the midfield.

"Even though there is a possibility of rain on Wednesday, I expect that the field will be fast," Bradley said. "I think that early in the game, it will be important to be the team that is aggressive and to able to play the other team, and be the team that can connect some passes and find a rhythm. I think that since this is the game that starts this round, it will start with a very fast tempo and we want to be ready for that."

One surprise is the absence of midfielder Maurice Edu. Edu is scrapping for playing time with Glasgow Rangers, who face one of their biggest matches of the season Sunday, an "Old Firm" tilt against crosstown rival Celtic. With Kljestan in good form, Bradley decided to leave Edu with Rangers.

Mexican coach Sven Goran-Eriksson has more problems then the possibility of cold weather. In the semifinal round, Mexico went winless in its last three games, finished second in Group 2 at 3-2-1 and advanced to the final ahead of Jamaica only on goal differential. In its three road games, Mexico lost to Honduras and Jamaica, and drew with Canada.

Injured and definitely out for Mexico is left winger Andres Guardado, who plays in Spain for Deportivo Coruna. Suspended regulars are midfielder Gerardo Torrado and striker Carlos Vela, who plays for English power Arsenal, both red-carded in Mexico's final semifinal round game, a 1-0 loss to Honduras, and midfielder Fernando Arce for accumulated yellow cards.

Moreover, several of Mexico's foreign-based players have been riding the bench or watching matches from the stands for their European clubs. Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruna, Spain), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal, Spain), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham Hotspur, England) and Antonio De Nigris (Ankaraspor, Turkey) are seeing few first-team minutes

The one piece of good news for Eriksson is that it is almost certain star central defender Rafael Marquez, who has been injured, will play. Marquez, who starts for Spanish Primera División leader Barcelona, suffered a calf injury two weeks ago that at first looked like it would sideline him. Since, he has returned to action in Spain and, while probably not 100 percent healthy, he looks ready to go.

Eriksson is under considerable pressure, not only because of his team's poor showing of late, but also because he has included on his roster three foreign-born players who are naturalized Mexican citizens: Argentine-born striker Matias Vuoso, and Brazilian-born midfielders Leandro Augusto and Antonio Naelson. These call-ups have angered many in the Mexican media and fans.

Wednesday will mark the 55th meeting between the U.S. and the Tricolores with the Mexicans leading the series 29-14-11 (.638), but the Americans have been domianant at home since 2000 with an 8-0-2 (.900) mark. During that span, the U.S. has netted 17 goals, while the Mexico has scored only three on American soil.

In the last two CONCACAF final rounds, the U.S. also hosted Mexico in Columbus and won each meeting 2-0. For the Americans, the colder Wednesday night is the better, but Mother Nature might not cooperate. They remember the February 28, 2001 triumph when the temperature was 28 degrees with a stiff wind. In that match, the Mexicans skipped warm-ups to stay within the warmth of their locker-room and looked miserable throughout.

Yet, forecasts call for temperatures in the low 50s with a possibility of showers.

In other first game-final round action on Wednesday, Costa Rica will put its 12-game unbeaten streak when it hosts Honduras at San José's Estadio Ricardo Saprissa and Trinidad & Tobago will visit El Salvador at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.


Training rosters for Wednesday's CONCACAF Final-Round World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio:

United States

Goalkeepers (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa: England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders (7): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA, Major League Soccer), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland, Denmark), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew, MLS), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liège, Netherlands), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock, Germany), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC, MLS).

Midfielders (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo, MLS), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA, MLS), Robbie Rogers (Columbus, MLS), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).

Forwards (5): Jozy Altidore (Xerez CD, Spain), Brian Ching (Houston, MLS), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF, Sweden) Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Bayern Munich, Germany).

Mexico

Goalkeepers (3): José de Jesus Corona (Tecos, Mexico), Guillermo Ochoa (Club America Mexico), Oswaldo Sánchez (Santos, Mexico).

Defenders (7): Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul, Mexico), Aaron Galindo (Guadalajara, Mexico), Leobardo Lopez (Pachuca, Mexico), Rafael Márquez (Barcelona, Spain), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart, Germany), Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Club America Mexico).

Midfielders (6): Leandro Augusto (Pumas de la UNAM, Mexico), Israel Martinez (San Luis, Mexico), Antonio Naelson (Toluca, Mexico), Pavel Pardo (Club America Mexico), Luis Perez (Monterrey, Mexico), Fausto Pinto (Cruz Azul, Mexico).

Forwards (8): Omar Bravo (Deportivo La Coruña, Mexico), Nery Castillo (Shakhtar Donetsk, Turkey), Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham Hotspur, England), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal, Spain), Alberto Medina (Guadalajara, Mexico), Carlos Ochoa (Guadalajara, Mexico), Cesar Villaluz (Cruz Azul, Mexico), Matias Vuoso (Santos, Brazil).


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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