You're welcome to have conflicted feelings about tonight's USA vs. Mexico match. Neither team is at full strength, and several factors - the non-FIFA window timing, the foolishness of once again playing on temporary grass laid on artificial turf, etc - bolster the thinking that this is more of a cash grab than a game scheduled for soccer reasons.
However, it is still USMNT vs. El Tri. It may be playing into the hands of two money-hungry federations and a greedy promoter, but if you put these two teams on the field you will get a lot of fans in the stands and many more eyeballs on screens. You'll also probably get a fun, intense game. Sometimes cash grabs aren't 100% rotten, and that's the case tonight.
Key player: Michael Bradley
Assuming Jurgen Klinsmann will maintain a formation is probably a mistake on my part, but if the diamond from the last set of friendlies is kept around then Bradley will need to excel in the most attacking role out of the midfield quartet. Of course, that's a problem: It's very clearly not the best position for him, and it's not a role he's played with any regularity since he was a teenager with Heerenveen.
Nonetheless, if the US wants to beat Mexico tonight - and that's what this team should want at all times - Bradley needs to deliver on the creative end. Playing a diamond midfield means sacrificing your ability to defend against true width, and those sacrifices have to be worthwhile. For the USMNT, that means Bradley needs to be a threat going forward in spite of the fact that it's not his best position.
Key question: Which CONCACAF power has more depth?
Neither Klinsmann nor Miguel Herrera has his very best lineup available tonight, as this is a cash-grab friendly being played outside FIFA's already overly generous windows for such games. In both cases, it's a heavily domestic roster with numerous youngsters getting the call. It's not a dry run for the Olympic team, but it's also not a real, full-power USA vs Mexico match.
However, this may be a somewhat useful test for both sides. The Gold Cup this summer is the product of scheduling that does not care a bit about player health, and both the USMNT and El Tri will have to play a ton of games on 3-4 days rest while flying all over this country. The only way a team can get to the final and have their best players available is to heavily rotate their squad all the way through. For both managers, tonight's teams could well indicate which players can be trusted to, say, win the third group-stage game to ensure an easier draw. That's not the final, but it's still an important step that both coaches will have in mind.
Match date/time: Wednesday April 15th, 8:00pm local, 9:00pm EST (note: Broadcast starts at 8pm EST)
Venue: Alamodome (San Antonio, TX)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Univision Deportes En Vivo (Spanish)