Back in 2017, with two matches remaining in the World Cup qualifying cycle and the USMNT on the outside, looking in, Alexi Lalas went ballistic post-match on FS1 after a 1-1 draw between the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy. Lalas' tirade was directed at "the supposed leaders" of the U.S. squad, and criticized them for, among other things, having tattoos and being Jozy Altidore.
The tough love worked momentarily as the U.S. beat Panama in Orlando to all but qualify for Russia, but we all know what happened next in Trinidad.
The USMNT finds itself in a similar — but surely better — position ahead of its final three games on the road to the 2022 World Cup. So instead of lashing out at "wonder boy" Christian Pulisic this time around, Lalas has quickly turned himself into the most hated man in Mexico by going after their squad.
"This is the weakest Mexican team I have seen in my life, this is a great opportunity to beat them at the Azteca Stadium," Lalas said. "This Mexican team reminds me of the 2017 United States team, where a generation of players was coming to its end. If Mexico qualifies, their coach, Gerardo Martino, will have to think about making big changes for the World Cup in Qatar, because the World Cup is for young people."
Lalas then explained why he thinks the U.S. has overtaken Mexico for some time to come.
"It's a combination of many things: The competency of the U.S. team has grown very quickly, both in the field and outside. Also, the development of the U.S. is much better, and to add on to that, MLS has become a more direct access bridge to Europe for young players."
The 51-year-old then doubled down on his Mexico assessment in a piece for FOX Sports.
"First up, Mexico in Azteca Stadium," he wrote. "USA vs. Mexico is the greatest international soccer rivalry in the world. Having said that, this is the weakest Mexico team I've seen in my lifetime, and a downsized and reduced capacity Azteca Stadium is certainly not the Thunderdome it once was. Mexico are ripe for the picking.
"The U.S. have been to the well three times against Mexico in the past year and found it full each time. Is this the time the well comes up empty? Maybe. But imagine if Gregg Berhalter were to beat Tata Martino and Mexico four times in one year?! They'd have to build a statue ... and put it outside Azteca!"
Lalas isn't the only former USMNT player feeling confident ahead of Thursday night's match. Tab Ramos, who earned 81 caps and featured in three World Cups, isn't impressed by this current El Tri side either.
"Mexico is frankly bad right now, for me this Mexican team has been one of the worst in Concacaf," Ramos said. "This Mexican team is not well trained, it does not travel to Europe to play games, all of its training is at home and in the United States. On the other hand, the United States is arriving with the majority of its players playing in Europe, so it's a different kind of training. But obviously, the Azteca is the Azteca and Mexico is Mexico."
The time for talk is at an end.