The United States lost to 2010 World Cup champions Spain 4-0 on Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
While this may seem overwhelming, people are very quick to miss two very important notes that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, this was a friendly. Its not like this was the FIFA Confederations Cup Semifinals. Secondly, it was a warm-up game for the United States, who take on Canada on Tuesday in the Group Stage as they begin their run in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
As the United States is transitioning into an era of new players who will become important to the team, even if they are only reserves right now, manager Bob Bradley did need to give Eric Lichaj, Tim Ream, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan (yes, he has been around, but is not a regular) and even Jermaine Jones the chance to start and play.
The only possible starters that were in the XI were Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Jonathan Spector, Maurice Edu, and maybe Oguchi Onyewu (who has not been playing much football lately). Landon Donovan did not play as he was sick. Captain Carlos Bocanegra did not dress.
Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Steve Cherundolo played only limited time—the same goes for potential second-choice defender Clarence Goodson. Chris Wondolowski and Alejandro Bedoya were also given chances, but neither has made many appearances and needed to get a game like this under their belt.
I cannot understand why any American can be upset about yesterday's match. A team of Spanish regulars: the starters being David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Pepe Reina, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Arbeloa, and Alvaro Negrado, controlled the game against a team of half reserves for the United States.
What do people expect? That the world champions would not play that well against a B-team of the United States national team? They should be winning like that against the B-squad of any national team!
There was clearly a difference in the game when the second half began. While the United States were undermanned due to the absence of Donovan and Bocanegra, they were able to contain Spain for the most part, despite the introduction of Andres Iniesta, Borja Valero, and Fernando Torres. In fact, the only reason Spain added the fourth was because Valero played an absolutely breathtaking pass through two defenders to Torres, who has struggled to score lately but showed shades of Ronaldo with his toe-poke off the post.
I went to this game not expecting to see a United States full-strength lineup or a closely contested match. With the Gold Cup coming up, Bradley needed to see his younger players in action, even if that did mean putting them up against the best the world could offer. The same thing happened last year leading into the World Cup.
The games against the Czech Republic in East Hartford, CT and against Australia against South Africa were contested mainly by reserves. Its all about preparing the reserves to play when needed in the tournament and for giving the stars their rest after training camp to get ready.
Any American fan who went to that game and felt short-changed because of the result is, well I do not even know what to say about them.
I've been to countless amazing Boston Red Sox games, I've seen AC Milan-Inter Milan, Los Angeles-New York in MLS, and USA-Brazil, I've been to a Bruins-Canadiens playoff game, I've rushed the field at Rentschler after UConn beat West Virginia, and I've been to more UConn mens' and womens' basketball games than I care to count, but the experience of the USA-Spain game is by far teh greatest sporting experience of my life.
There are few stadiums that provide as much to do as Gillette Stadium does. A walk around Patriots Place will reveal tons of restaurants, many stores, merchandise shops, everything you can imagine. Adding to that entertainment, Dick's Sporting Goods, AllState, and Kuhmo Tire sponsored great events for the fans.
USA could challenge Spain in an effort to kick the ball into the goal targets at the Dick's Sporting Goods table. A trip to the AllState center allowed fans the chance to win VIP tickets to the game and also an autograph and photo session during which fans got to meet Tony Meola, the US goalkeeper at the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups. A walk to the Kuhmo Tire truck gave fans the chance to meet the one and only Alexi Lalas, a World Cup vet for the US and current soccer analyst on ESPN.
The lucky fans who made it into the stadium early could get in line to get their picture taken with THE World Cup, which Spain brought with them to the United States. While I did not get a picture with the trophy, I still got to see it, which was a sight in itself.
Saturday was a day for the fans, allowing them the chance to enjoy all the entertainment outside the stadium and enjoy the quality of Spain while inside. There was never a doubt that the United States would be more focused on beating Canada on Tuesday.
While Spain outclassed our reserves, I still saw glimmers of potential from the reserves and have no doubt that the United States will be a tough out at the Gold Cup. The only weakness on the team that concerns me is Bob Bradley. The US has a great team with budding potential, but they do not play up to that potential under his management.
I still believe that a personal all-time favorite player of mine, Marco van Basten, would be a great fit as well as oft-linked manager Jurgen Klinsmann. All the same, the players themselves could take the Gold Cup with Mexico being their biggest challenge.
Like I said, the team looked much better when Dempsey, Bradley, and Cherundolo came in. The experience and jump in talent helped a lot as the US contained much better.
The best part of the game for the United States was Juan Agudelo, who, while he did not score, was a very tough player for the Spanish defenders to defend. He truly does have incredible potential at only 18 and could be a big part of the run to a spot in Brazil 2013.
The only thing that bothered me about the game yesterday was the amount of bandwagon Spanish fans in attendance. It was pretty sad. First of all, I was thrilled that there were nearly 65,000 in attendance as the record for attendance for a soccer game in New England was showered. However, it was very noticeable that many of the Americans in attendance were rooting for Spain. These fans are the ones that I do not see as real soccer fans.
There is a difference in supporting a national team compared to a club team. There is nothing wrong with supporting a club team of another country, especially since many folks here in the United States do not have a local club of their own.
However, when it comes to the national teams, I find it pathetic to root for a different national team other than the United States when you are actually from the United States! National teams represent national pride. What kind of national pride is it when you root for Brazil when you are actually from the United States and have no relation to Brazil at all and only like them because they are good? That is no pride at all. Its just pathetic.
That was my only problem with the game yesterday. Other than that, it was an incredible experience and a great day overall. After watching the game, I realize flaws in the United States, particularly in terms of coaching, but I still think they'll be tough to beat in the Gold Cup. I think its theirs or Mexico's for the taking and a June 25th match=up at the Rose Bowl would be a battle of epic proportions.
Again, American fans have nothing to hang their heads about after yesterday—only when thinking about Bob Bradley and the annoying, non-Spanish people who were rooting for Spain and are actually American.
Next up for the United States: they take on Canada in the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday night in Detroit. The group also includes Panama and Guadeloupe. Of course the United States will be favorites to win the group, but then it will be tough as they need to get by the likes of Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico to win North America's championship and qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Currently, Brazil, Spain, and Japan are the only qualifiers. They will be joined by the winners of the 2011 Gold Cup, Copa America 2011 (or runner-up if Brazil wins), UEFA Euro 2012, the 2012 OFC Nations Cup, and the 2013 African Cup of Nations.