When the U.S. scheduled today’s fixture with Spain they likely felt it would be a good tune up for a team destined to fight it out with Mexico for CONCACAF supremacy in the coming weeks. Spain got a brace from Santi Cazorla and goals from Negredo and Fernando Torres to down the host 4-0 ahead of their Gold Cup opener against Canada on Tuesday.
What happened in Boston today was nothing less than a confidence shaker. Playing most of the match with their reserves, the U.S. were undone by a four goal performance from the reigning world champions on the backs of a number of outstanding performances from a mix of Spain’s “A” and “B” level players.
The U.S. was outclassed at every step of the match. In every phase the Spanish giants dominated, and while that’s not a surprise, the level of dominance was disheartening.
The U.S. could not generate anything in the first 45 minutes playing without eventual second half subs Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley and missing Donovan the entire match due to illness. Without three of their best players the U.S. surrendered an astonishing amount of possession and paid the price.
– Despite the personnel, playing a flat 4-4-2 was an awful decision from Bob Bradley. Refusing to give cover to an exposed backline killed the U.S. and resulted in open lanes for late runners which produced two of the four Spain goals.
– Defense is a glaring issue for the U.S. Conceding goals to Spain is one thing but to not pressure and to have poor marking, especially in the middle, is unacceptable and could hurt against the better teams in the Gold Cup. The Oguchi Onyewu/Tim Ream pairing was not good. Neither player did well and without cover the Spanish attackers had a field day.
– Dempsey and Bradley coming on in the second half brought better spells for the U.S. with the passing and possession getting better.
– Today’s individual performances from some of the younger players should give the U.S. some cause for concern. Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers, Jozy Altidore and Eric Lichaj had some bad moments in the match. Some of these players will be called upon to contribute heavily in the Gold Cup and their individual effort was not good today. While no U.S. player had a good day these guys stood out to me as not doing well.
– On the positive side, I thought there was some good play from Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo. The inexperienced forwards found some spots and tested the Spanish defense. Wondolowski put himself in a number of good spots in the second half and Agudelo was one of the few Yanks willing to go at Spain’s defense.
Going forward its unclear how this game will be received by the U.S. team but it’s tough to say they’ll take too many positives from it. Playing tough competition is a good thing in general but from the outside looking in this could be a confidence shaking match for the Americans.
Bradley has some decisions to make regarding player and formation decisions. While a 4-4-2 could work in the group stage, playing that style against an attacking team like Mexico could be death to the Yanks’ Gold Cup chances.
One thing’s for sure, it will be interesting to see the U.S. and Bradley’s response Tuesday when Gold Cup play starts against Canada.