With pressure off, U.S. feeling confident 

March, 23, 2013

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- What a difference a win makes.

Not only did the U.S. squad's snowy 1-0 victory over Costa Rica lift the Yanks off the bottom of the Hexagonal standings and into second place in the six-team final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, it lifted all the pressure off the Americans heading into Tuesday's grudge match against archrival El Tri in Mexico City.

In a way, the Yanks will be playing with house money there. With an 0-12 all-time record in qualifying matches south of the border, it's no secret that the U.S. is expected to lose at Estadio Azteca. And after Mexico squandered a two-goal lead and had to settle for a 2-2 tie in Honduras on Friday, suddenly all the stress is on the still-winless hosts.

"There's less pressure on us," a smiling Clint Dempsey, who scored the Americans' winner Friday, told reporters after beating the Ticos. "The thing that helps us the most is our position in the table and the fact that we got a win under our belt in this round. We find ourselves in second, going down to Mexico with that confidence."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.