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United States face Mexico in do-or-die CONCACAF Cup

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The biggest game of the year is easily this Saturday night showdown with Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup

Michael Bradley and the USMNT face Mexico for all the marbles on Saturday.
Michael Bradley and the USMNT face Mexico for all the marbles on Saturday.
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

MLB had their Wild-Card games Tuesday and Wednesday. First, it was Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros mowing through the New Yankees, then it was the Cubs' Jake Arrieta dominating a Pirates team that experienced a similar fate as last year.

These games, of course, were just to move on in the postseason, not to win the World Series, just like the United States-Mexico game Saturday night in LA isn't to win the World Cup; it's not even to get into the prestigious tournament. It's to get into the warmup contest the year before the World Cup.

But the Confederations Cup is a high-quality event, as it consists of the previous World Cup winner as well as the top teams from each federation, plus the host nation. Obviously it's good competition. The point is, you want to get into this.

If you think about it, this game is very similar to the aforementioned baseball games. Managers prepare their squad for a single game, specific to the other team. If you make a mistake in this match, then you could have just lost everything for your team.

No pressure or anything.

The Rose Bowl will host this all-important match, dubbed the CONCACAF Cup. Who will our United States be sending out? Let's take a look at the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

The only Dynamo player on here is DaMarcus Beasley, if that interests you.

Pretty standard roster. 12 MLSers will be eligible, but no Mix Diskerud, the NYCFC midfielder who has been in disappointing form this domestic season despite scoring a goal earlier in the year for the USMNT.

The biggest question mark is clearly the defense, which has gone through a lot of experimentation this season without a ton of luck. Ventura Alvarado has spent plenty of time at center-back alongside John Brooks, but hasn't been reliable and Brooks was injured with Bundesliga team Hertha BSC.

That means MLS and national team veterans Brad Evans and Matt Besler will be in contention for a starting spot, as will Geoff Cameron and Jonathan Spector, who play in the English system. The best bet would be Cameron paired with either Besler, Spector or Michael Orozco. Then again, Jurgen Klinsmann definitely likes to fade from the norm, so for all I know, Tim Ream could be playing in central defense.

Beasley is a good bet to start on the left side of the defense, having been capped 122 times since 2001 for the Americans. The right side will most likely be manned by Fabian Johnson of Borussia Mönchengladbach or Tim Ream of Fullham, with Evans and even DeAndre Yedlin as options as well.

In the midfield, we'll most likely see Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones together centrally, or possibly Alejandro Bedoya or Kyle Beckerman at some point, depending on offensive and defensive needs. Danny Williams of Reading is also a capable option. Yedlin will most likely start on a wing with Gyasi Zardes, a forward who has been played more as a winger internationally with guys like Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore there.

Up front, Dempsey and Altidore will probably play as strikers due to Aron Johannsson's injury suffered while playing with Werder Bremen. Chris Wondolowski, an MLS superstar, is very capable of making smart runs through the defense and finishing elegantly off the bench.

In goal will be Brad Guzan, as Klinsmann has stated previously. Tim Howard and Nick Rimando will back him up.

Across the border, Mexico have clear problems with injuries and leadership. Here's the roster originally unveiled:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Moisés Muñoz (América), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey)

DEFENDERS (9): Rafael Márquez (Hellas Verona), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Héctor Moreno (PSV), José Arturo Rivas (Tigres), Paúl Aguilar (América), Israel Jiménez (Tigres), Miguel Layún (Porto), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)

MIDFIELDERS (8): José Juan Vázquez (León), Jonathan Dos Santos (Villareal), Héctor Herrera (Porto), Carlos Esquivel (Toluca), Andrés Guardado (PSV), Javier Aquino (Tigres), Carlos Peña (León), Jesús Corona (Porto)

FORWARDS (5): Javier Hernández (Bayer Leverkusen), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad), Oribe Peralta (América), Raúl Jiménez (Benfica), Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy)

Giovanni dos Santos, Carlos Peña and Jose Juan Vazquez are all injured and will be replaced by Elias Hernandez and Javier Guemez. Andres Guardado and Rafa Marquez are both still healing from previous ailments, and while they will probably still play, it won't be at 100 percent.

This is a good side with representation from many other leagues, like in Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands.

The coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, was just named manager this week after moving from Sao Paulo in Brazil. This comes after Ricardo Ferretti was interim coach for two friendlies, replacing Gold Cup winner Miguel Herrera, who blew his career after fighting with a Mexican reporter.

If Guardado can't play, the team will be without its captain and a confirmed, prepared coach, surely a disadvantage.

Who'll win? It could go either way. Maybe Klinsmann will tinker too much and a new lineup won't gel enough to get the job done. Or, on the flip side, Mexico's instability will prove costly and injuries will catch up to them, resulting in a Dos A Cero United States win.

Either way, you don't want to miss this game.

(Lineups courtesy of mlssoccer.com)