Three things to watch: USMNT vs Mexico

The United States and Mexico face off tonight in the biggest rivalry in Concacaf. In a World Cup qualifier, the stakes are high as the two sides meet in Cincinnati tonight. Here are three things to watch in the latest edition of this rivalry.

1. Can the USMNT cope without Pulisic?

Christian Pulisic is in the squad, but isn’t healthy enough to start. He’s missed two months after picking up an injury with the US against Honduras in early September.

Brendan Aaronson has developed into a plug-and-play starter in the last couple rounds of qualifying action. With Gio Reyna still injured and Pulisic unavailable, he’s shouldered a lot of the creative burden left in attack, and even with both players back he’ll fight for a starting spot.

Without Pulisic in the lineup, expect Brendan Aaronson to start, with either Timothy Weah or Paul Arriola starting opposite. Can the US create chances without their most talented player?

2. Can Pepi continue to produce?

Head coach Gregg Berhalter swung big with this roster, bringing Ricardo Pepi as the only out-and-out striker in the squad. While Tim Weah and Jesús Ferreira can both play as a nine, Pepi has been tipped to get the bulk of the minutes up front in the next two matches.

Pepi has been in form to start his national team career, but if he’s not firing, the options behind him are slim. It’s a high risk, high reward decision from Berhalter, who clearly trusts Pepi to perform in a high pressure situation.

3. How will the US set up defensively?

Without John Brooks or Sergiño Dest in the squad, the USMNT will be without two of their premier defenders. There’s a case to be made that neither is suited for a match like this against Mexico, but both have been core pieces of this squad over the last cycle.

Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson have been excellent when paired together, and seem to be the de-facto partnership at the back. How Berhalter handles Dest’s absence will be fascinating. Does Joe Scally get his first international minutes in a such a huge match, or does Reggie Cannon come back into the lineup after some poor showings? The XI Berhalter rolls out will be fascinating.

The match kicks off tonight at 8:00 PM central and will be broadcast on ESPN2, Univision and TUDN.

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