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Sep 10, 2013

U.S. looks to extend home dominance vs. Mexico

The United States hosts Mexico on Tuesday night, looking to clinch its 10th World Cup berth and seventh in a row. Mexico is in a tailspin, with one win from seven qualifiers and new coach Luis Fernando Tena now on the sidelines. Here are five notes to get you ready for Tuesday night’s showdown:

• The United States has never lost in nine games at Columbus Crew Stadium, going 6-0-3 and outscoring opponents 13-1 there. That includes three consecutive qualifying wins against Mexico, all by 2-0 scores.

The U.S. is undefeated in six straight home qualifiers against Mexico, last losing in 1972, and the Americans are riding a 25-match home unbeaten streak in qualifying, since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at RFK Stadium in 2001.

• The U.S. will clinch a World Cup berth with a win and a Panama loss or draw in Honduras. A U.S. win or draw will guarantee a top-four finish in the final round and no worse than a playoff against New Zealand for a World Cup berth.

ESPN’s Soccer Power Index says there is a 58.5 percent chance of the United States qualifying on Tuesday. The U.S. has a 66.1 percent chance of winning, and Honduras has an 88.5 percent chance of beating or tying Panama. The SPI currently has the United States at 99.9 percent to qualify for the World Cup.

• Michael Bradley, who scored both goals in a 2-0 U.S. win over Mexico in Columbus four years ago, will miss the game with a sprained ankle. During Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure, the United States has lost twice in 19 games that Bradley has started (to Brazil and at Honduras), compared to seven losses in 20 games when he does not.

In the final round, Bradley leads the team with 76 passes completed in the attacking third, at a team-high completion rate of 73.1 percent.

• Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, Mexico will still control its own destiny for a top-four spot over the final two games of qualifying, with a home game against Panama looming on Oct. 11. But a win versus the U.S. would make qualifying more likely, improving Mexico’s SPI odds of reaching the World Cup from 70.4 percent to 88.0 percent. Even a draw would be helpful, bumping the odds to 74.8 percent. A loss would dip Mexico’s chances to 65.6 percent.

• Mexico’s qualifying issues have been a result of shockingly poor results at home. In four final-round matches at Estadio Azteca, Mexico has gone winless, scoring one goal and dropping nine points. In the previous four final rounds, Mexico dropped a total of seven points at home and scored no fewer than 12 home goals in the final round.

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