COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bruce Arena remembers. So does Pablo Mastroeni. And Oguchi Onyewu.
They don't dare forget the last time the United States met Mexico in a World Cup qualifying game.
As is their wont, the Mexicans attacked from the outset, got two early goals, and beat the Americans 2-1 on March 27. Arena knows his team can't allow its archrival, particularly star forward Jared Borgetti, to get off to a fast start again.
``I expect nothing different (from Mexico),'' Arena said Friday, one day before the teams meet at Crew Stadium with a spot in Germany 2006 available for the winner - or possibly even if there is a tie. ``They seem intent on putting their stamp on the game and so do we.
``As for Borgetti, we've got to mark him for the full 90 minutes. We have to mark him in front of the goal, because he gets a lot of goals because of his positioning in front of the goal, and from the services to him. Plus because of poor defense.''
While Arena wasn't indicting anyone, both Onyewu and Mastroeni know they need to be at their peaks against Mexico and Borgetti.
Asked if Onyewu learned anything from that 2-1 defeat, Arena smiled and answered: ``If he didn't, Borgetti will do the same thing.''
But Arena has tremendous confidence in the emerging defender, who is only 23 and has been learning on the job. And Onyewu promises he has studied up.
``You play Borgetti 90 minutes and never lose track of him,'' Onyewu said. ``He's an ace when it comes to headers and free kicks. We can't let him breathe.''
Mastroeni, also a key to the U.S. defense, is coming off a sprained ankle. He can't think of a better time to get back on the field than against Mexico, which is 5-0-1 in CONCACAF's final round of qualifying. The United States is 5-1-0.
``The last game obviously was not our best,'' he said. ``On the day of the game, basically we did not show up at Azteca Stadium. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and do it in front of the home crowd. And qualify for Germany against our archrival. We couldn't ask for more.
Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe basically considers both teams already in the field of 32 for Germany 2006. He's probably right.
Either side advances with a win. A tie would mean the U.S. team needs Trinidad and Tobago to tie Guatemala and Panama to either win or tie against Costa Rica.
And a tie is highly possible because of how close these clubs are. The United States is ranked sixth in the world, its best ever. Mexico is fifth.
Lavolpe believes the Americans might open up their offense a bit and not just look for counterattacks.
``The times we have played against the United States, they respected us,'' he said. ``They only created danger on free kicks and counterattacks. Now they are more confident, as they are qualified like we are. It could be that now they play more open because the points aren't as important.
``I hope that's the way, it is so we can see an open game in which both teams go out to win.''
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press