It's eight months before World Cup '94 comes to the United States. The U.S. national team has only a 7-10-10 record this season, but U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic is nowhere near the panic stage yet.
Not one drop of sweat.
"The American people always speak of winning," said Milutinovic, who took control of the team in March 1991. "We are not so concerned with winning now. We must win in World Cup. That's when winning is important."
The United States will face world-class competition tonight (7:30) at RFK Stadium in Washington, where it plays Mexico, the first team to reach the 1994 Cup finals through qualifying play (after the automatic entries of defending champion Germany and the host United States).
Mexico has lost twice in its past 15 games and four times during 1993. Mexico defeated the United States, 4-0, in the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship match on June 25. Mexico swept through the tournament with a 4-0-1 record, outscoring its opponents 28-2.
"Mexico will be a very good test for us," said Milutinovic. "They use an aggressive, attacking style of play which is capable of producing many goals."
Mexico features attacking forwards Luis Roberto Alves (also known as Zague) and Hugo Sanchez. On the back line, defenders Claudio Suarez, Miguel Herrera and Juan Ramirez Perales form a protective wall in front of flashy goalkeeper Jorge Campos.
"We ate some humble pie," U.S. defender Desmond Armstrong said of the last meeting. "Now, we need to learn from our mistakes and move forward."
One of the reasons for the inconsistent play by the U.S. team is the number of foreign-based players that are unavailable. When the United States has had those players in the lineup, the team competed well against the world's best, with a 6-3 record, including a 2-0 victory over England and a 4-3 loss to Germany this summer in U.S. Cup '93.
For the match against Mexico, Milutinovic has recalled two players from abroad, forward Ernie Stewart (Netherlands) and defender Cle Kooiman (Mexico). Midfielder Chad Deering also has received approval from the Bundesliga, Germany's top league, to play for the United States.
Defender Thomas Dooley, who also plays in the Bundesliga, and midfielder Hugo Perez from Saudi Arabia are training with the United States full time.
"We just need some time," said Armstrong, an alum of Howard High and the University of Maryland. "Maturity comes with time."