Bradley calls on experienced players to step up
Coach Bob Bradley has called on the experienced members of his United States squad to lead the way when they meet arch-rivals Mexico to kick-off the final round of their World Cup qualification bid.
Landon Donovan, who has won 105 international caps, and DaMarcus Beasley with 82 caps, lead a group of experienced players that also includes Columbus Crew's 34-year-old defender Frankie Hejduk, Houston Dynamo forward Brian Ching, 31, and 29-year-old Rennes defender Carlos Bocanegra.
Bradley is hopeful those players can help the US get off to a winning start when they meet El Tri in Columbus on Wednesday.
"During the qualifying we relied on a big group of veterans, they understand what these games are all about," Bradley said. "In the first game of the final round against a rival like this, that type of experience will be very important. We are looking to those guys to lead us on the field.
"It'll be important to try to be the team that is aggressive in an intelligent way, trying to play in the other team's half, trying to be the team that can connect some passes, find the rhythm, be on top of lose balls.
"Certainly in a game like this, beginning this round, the expectation is that the game will start up at a very fast tempo and we'll be ready for that."
Bradley commented there is a special feeling ahead of this match: "It seems we've been talking about this game for a month's time. There is an excitement level everywhere we go."
On the other hand, Mexico winger Giovani dos Santos is sure his team's defenders can stop Donovan and the other US attackers in order to claim a crucial victory ahead of South Africa 2010.
"It has been said a lot about Donovan being a player who damaged Mexico a lot, but I think we have very important defenders who can stop him easily," the Tottenham forward said.
"The United States have progressed a lot and have worked very well. They are a team who can bring surprise anytime.
"However, we should play them as any other game. It is the first of the final qualifying round and we have five more to play to be in the World Cup."
In San Jose, Costa Rica boss Rodrigo Kenton believes his team have what it takes to beat Honduras, adding he does not fear his opponents.
"I am not worried about anything about Honduras. We have to impose our style on the field. I am worried about the Costa Rican national team only," Kenton affirmed.
"If you defined your own style, you'll beat the rival anytime."
Honduras boss Reinaldo Rueda will attempt to lead the Central American nation to their first ever World Cup finals since 1982, but has warned against spiralling expectations should they win this week.
"Winning the first match is worthless if we are not balanced enough to distribute that victory. Besides, winning does not qualify us to the World Cup," Rueda said.
"It is a very important match to set the bravery of the national team."
Finally in San Salvador, El Salvador coach Carlos de los Cobos is wary of their opening opponents, Trinidad & Tobago, who are looking forward to playing their second World Cup in a row.
"Starting at home is good as it gives us a little advantage. Anyway, Trinidad & Tobago are a good team like all the others. If they have reached this stage is because they have enough talent," De los Cobos said.
El Salvador have also not played the World Cup finals since 1982 and the coach wants that to change.
"I dream of the World Cup berth. We know we'll play high-quality teams but we'll fight until the end," he said.
The Soca Warriors rely on a group of English-based players like Sunderland trio Kenwyne Jones, Dwight Yorke and Carlos Edwards, Walsall goalkeeper Clayton Ince, Crewe Alexandra's Dennis Lawrence, Brighton's Chris Birchall, Wrexham's Silvio Spann and Bristol City's Stern John.
Yorke said: "Obviously we're here for an important qualifying match because we realise that a good result here away from home could be just the right start in this final round for us.
"We don't expect El Salvador to make it easy for us by any means but we've got a job to do."