The hype has been written, banter has been exchanged (sometimes poorly), but now the time for talk is over. When the United States step onto the pitch at the Rose Bowl tonight, the only thing left to do is play a soccer match -- in front of 90,000 screaming fans.
"I think as you're preparing for the game, you want to stay calm and stay relaxed," says Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler. "But at the same time, these are special games. You want to be able to take in the atmosphere, take in the memories."
There are sure to be plenty of memories to keep. A sell-out crowd in the cavernous Rose Bowl provides an electric shock in the air that many saw swallow up the United States in the 2011 Gold Cup Final. The crowd then, perhaps 90% pro-Mexico, felt a bit like Estadio Azteca to a Bob Bradley-coached US squad humiliated by a 4-2 scoreline.
The current man at the helm, Jurgen Klinsmann, thinks the match tonight may serve as an opportunity to impress and persuade a crowd that looks to be a bit more red, white, and blue this time around. Writing for The Players' Tribune, Klinsmann examines the melting pot of Los Angeles and jokingly hopes those in green might have a USA shirt underneath.
"If we play well on Saturday, I bet we will win over a few of those Mexican-American fans who value their heritage but also highly appreciate the country in which they live," he writes. "I know we will try to win their respect. In a rivalry, that may be the sweetest final score."
Earlier in the week, those Mexican-American fans likely felt a bit queasy at the news that Giovanni Dos Santos and defensive midfielder "Gallito" were sent home with injury from training camp. The United States had somehow escaped the injury bug from biting their initial 23-man roster but, on Friday, came news that threatens to shake the starting lineup. Midfielder Aléjandro Bedoya, who had missed two days of training while battling a fever, will be forced to sit out.
"Alé can't make it. He got sick. It's simple as that," Klinsmann told assembled media. "He was burning for this game but it is what it is."
The disappointment in Jurgen's voice was echoed by captain Michael Bradley and shared by his teammates.
"We'll miss Aléjandro for sure," said Bradley. "He's been on the field for us on a lot of big days in the last few years. Certainly, from that standpoint it hurts. But, one of the strengths of our team has always been the ability for different guys to step in on different days and really come through. The mentality, the spirit, the commitment from every guy to compete... these are things that have carried us on big days and in tough moments. We all have total faith that whoever steps in tomorrow, whoever plays in any spot, is going to step on the field ready to go."
That stoic confidence from Bradley and Klinsmann looked an awful lot like that expressed by Mexico coach Tuca Ferreti and captain Rafa Marquez earlier in the day. For all the "revenge match" hype and pressure that mounted on Jurgen Klinsmann's coaching acumen, players and staff from both camps appear prepared but measured in their response - playing a nice contrast to the heated promotion of the match.
"We're confident but we know how good they are as well," said keeper Tim Howard, who will play the rare back-up role to Brad Guzan on Saturday night. "I think we have the edge but we have to prove it."
The chance to do so comes tonight. Dynamo Theory will have live game coverage from Pasadena, California, including post-game press conference and player reactions. Follow along with our Twitter to stay up-to-date.