U.S. prepares for next step in World Cup qualifying

Costa Rica forward Alvaro Saborio (9) and United States defender Clarence Goodson (21) go after the ball during the second half of Friday’s World Cup qualifier soccer match in Commerce City, Colo. The United States continues qualifying today against Mexico.

Costa Rica forward Alvaro Saborio (9) and United States defender Clarence Goodson (21) go after the ball during the second half of Friday’s World Cup qualifier soccer match in Commerce City, Colo. The United States continues qualifying today against Mexico. Photo by The Associated Press.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United Stated and Mexico meet in a World Cup qualifier today and both teams could use a boost.

In this final stage of CONCACAF qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, only three teams out of six will lock up a berth, with the fourth team landing in a playoff game against the Oceania winner — New Zealand.

Right now, Mexico is tied for third and needs a win after disappointing draws with Honduras on Friday and Jamaica in February.

“We need to work on everything, the technical, tactical and mental elements,” said Mexico’s coach, Jose Manuel de la Torre. “We can’t leave anything out.”

The U.S. lost its opener to Honduras in February. It moved into second place after beating Costa Rica 1-0 in the middle of a snowstorm last week, though FIFA is studying a protest from the Costa Rica soccer federation that says the “physical integrity” of players was affected by playing in the snowstorm in Commerce City, Colo., and wants a replay.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsman said Monday the Americans respect Mexico, which makes it “one of those games you are hungry for. It’s an awesome opportunity, and we want to embrace the moment and give them a real game, to battle them.”

The game is at the intimidating Azteca Stadium, where the Americans have only beaten Mexico once — in an exhibition match last August.

A U.S. victory would mark the first time Mexico lost at home in a World Cup qualifier since a 2002 match against Costa Rica.

Both teams still are the favorites to earn spots in the top three. Neither has missed a World Cup in two decades.

“We have the best two teams in CONCACAF battling each other. We have respect for them and they have it for us,” Klinsman said.

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