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Between Emotion And Response: USA v Mexico Preview

Is this the final time Landon Donovan wears the USA badge against Mexico?

Someday very soon we're going to miss this.
Someday very soon we're going to miss this.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised ...

- from The Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot

There was a time, not very long ago, when the prospect of fielding both Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in a non-FIFA-date friendly would have meant something very special - a testimonial? Some rivalry affair? Since the early days of the Klinsmann era, the pair seldom appeared alongside one another for the USA except when the stakes were the highest.

But in Arizona at 10 p.m. CT this evening, the pair could face Mexico for the last time, and the stakes couldn't be lower for the two veterans. Tonight, the top stories (Julian Green! JULIAN GREEN! shout the headlines) are more torch-passing than breast-beating for the suddenly-elder statesmen. And tonight, our great rivalry serves as a quick-lap shakeout cruise for those Americans not employed in top leagues overseas, in a venue guaranteed to make the crowd overtly hostile to the home team.

It's a melancholy prospect lying atop what could be a fascinating game. Mexico appears to have righted the ship somewhat under Miguel Herrera after a shockingly horrible qualifying campaign. The domestic-based roster called for this game doesn't include the most visible of the strugglers who so narrowly avoided World Cup elimination (‘Chicharito' Hernandez, looking at you here). There's a sense that Mexico's psyche is fragile, especially when playing the USA; if things go poorly, can the Mexicans summon some dignity, or will they go full Marquez? (Yes, he's on the roster.)

For the USA, the main questions surround depth and system, to wit:

- Can we play possession against anyone save overmatched minnows? Klinsmann's vaunted shift to attacking football often looks like a simple focus on pressing and compactness; can the USA incorporate la pausa into their play and rest with the ball?

- Julian freaking Green. Every successful World Cup year, there's young guys who break into the roster at the final hurdle; it says here Green is one for 2014. If the USA cannot hold the ball against top competition (and they haven't shown much of that yet), they'll need someone to spearhead the lightning counter.

- The other inevitable ‘guys on the bubble' - International rosters, by their nature, are as much about reputation as actual play. If you're a player not securely in Klinsmann's plans, these friendlies are your only chance to really make a statement. Look for one or two of DeAndre Yedlin, Luis Gil, Michael Parkhurst, Chris Wondolowski and Maurice Edu to sneak into the plane to Brazil, and tonight could be the start of that move.

- Shakeout for the D. There's just so few repetitions for international center-back partnerships; a poor showing can undermine months of growth. Here's to hoping Besler and Gonzalez don't spend a huge amount of time facing their own goal, sprinting back in desperation.

- Sean Johnson. He's our Milkman, and tonight's the night he makes, like, 12 saves in the second half and boots Nick Rimando off the plane to Brazil, amirite?

In the end, though, it's a friendly. It's a cash grab for Soccer United Marketing. And it's potentially the last time Landon Donovan, our nation's foremost Mexi-killer, faces his auld enemy. Let's hope it's not, though.

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Check back here at Hot Time for starting lineups, snark and jubilation - blearily, naturally, because dannng this is a late one.

USA v MEXICO, April 2, 2014, 10 p.m. CDT

USA Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Mexico Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Moisés Muñoz (Club América), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

DEFENDERS (8): Paúl Aguilar (Club América), Rogelio Chávez (Cruz Azul), Miguel Layun (Club América), Rafael Márquez (León), Enrique Pérez (Atlas), Miguel Ángel Ponce (Toluca), Francisco Javier Rodríguez (Club América), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Club América)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Marco Fabián (Cruz Azul), Juan Carlos Medina (Club América), Luis Montes (León), Carlos Peña (León), Jesús Zavala (Monterrey)

FORWARDS (3): Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Raúl Jiménez (Club América), Alán Pulido (Tigres)