Arena changes 7 US starters vs Mexico, wary of altitude
MEXICO CITY (AP) U.S. coach Bruce Arena changed seven of 11 starters for Sunday night's World Cup qualifier at Mexico, keeping only defenders Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin, and midfielders Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley.
Brad Guzan took over in goal from Tim Howard, and DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez joined the back line in a 5-4-1 formation. Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola were in midfield and Bobby Wood at forward.
Others on the bench who started Thursday's 2-0 home win over Trinidad and Tobago included defender John Brooks, midfielders Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, and forward Jozy Altidore. Left back Jorge Villafana and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, both injured, did not dress along with No. 4 goalkeeper Ethan Horvath.
With Estadio Azteca at 7,820 feet above sea level and just two off days between games, Arena paid close attention to recovery time.
''We have some good players and we also have another group behind them that's pretty good, because we see them every day in training,'' Arena said after Thursday's game.
Yedlin was at right back and Beasley at left - his first start since the playoff loss to Mexico for a Confederations Cup berth on October 2015. At 35, Beasley became the first American to appear in five qualifying cycles. Guzan had not started since last November's 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica, the last game before the U.S. Soccer Federation fired coach Jurgen Kinsmann and brought back Arena, the Americans' coach from 1998-2006.
Speaking at training Saturday, Howard praised the roster's depth.
''Everybody is here to play minutes, play important minutes,'' he said. ''I don't think that was always the case, certainly not in my time. You had a few passengers. This team doesn't seem to have any passengers.''
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio made four changes from the lineup that beat visiting Honduras 3-0 on Thursday, adding defender Hector Moreno, midfielder Marco Fabian and forwards Javier Hernandez and Hirving Lozano.
El Tri's starting lineup also included defenders Carlos Salcedo, Oswaldo Alanis and Diego Reyes; midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Hector Herrera, and forward Carlos Vela.
Joel Aguilar of El Salvador was the referee. He worked the infamous Snow Classio in Colorado four years ago, a 1-0 U.S. win over Costa Rica in heavy snow.
Mexico upset the U.S. 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, on the opening day of the final round of qualifying in November and is in position to sweep the Americans in a qualifying cycle for the first time 1972.
Mexico leads the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 13 points, followed by Costa Rica (eight), the U.S. (seven), Panama (six), Honduras (four) and Trinidad and Tobago three. The top three advance to next year's World Cup in Russia, and the fourth-place team faces Asia's No. 5 nation in a playoff.