Injuries forced yet another lineup makeover for the Americans, with Maurice Edu getting the start in central midfield in place of Jermaine Jones for Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier at Mexico and Matt Besler replacing Clarence Goodson at center back.
The addition of Edu wasn't a huge surprise. Jones didn't even travel to Mexico after spraining his ankle in Friday night's 1-0 victory over Costa Rica, and Edu played well in last summer's exhibition win at Mexico, where the Americans had been 0-23-1 against El Tri in 75 years, though he started in central defense. Edu started in central defense in that game.
But U.S. Soccer did not announce that Goodson had a strained hamstring until shortly before kickoff. Besler, who has made only one other appearance for the U.S., is in for a massive test. Azteca is the toughest venue the Americans play in. The crowd is loud and hostile, and Mexico is nearly unbeatable at Azteca. It is 68-1-6 in World Cup qualifiers at home, and its last loss was to Costa Rica back in 2001.
Besler will pair with Omar Gonzalez, with DaMarcus Beasley on the left and Geoff Cameron on the right. Edu will pair with Michael Bradley in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez in front of them and Jozy Altidore up front. It is Beasley's 99th appearance for the Americans.
Dempsey captained the Americans for a second straight game in the absence of defender Carlos Bocanegra, dropped because of lack of playing time for his club in Spain, and goalkeeper Tim Howard, recovering from two broken bones in his back.
Mexico was using a 4-5-1 formation with Guillermo Ochoa in goal; Severo Meza, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno and Jorge Torres Nilo on the back line; Carlos Salcido, Jesus Zavala, Javier Aquino, Andres Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos at midfield and Javier Hernandez as the lone forward. Mexico badly needs a victory after getting just two points from its first two games, including a 2-2 draw with Honduras on Friday after El Tri blew a 2-0 lead.
The top three teams in the group, which also includes Jamaica and Panama, advance to the 32-nation field in Brazil next year and the No. 4 nation meets New Zealand in a home-and-home playoff for another berth.