DUSTIN BECK - Sunday, June 5, 2011
Saturday's friendly between the USA and Spain sadly provided what many American fans were fearing, with the World Champions thoroughly dominating possession on the way to a four-goal win.
The re-match of the memorable 2009 Confederations Cup semifinal took place in Foxboro, Massachusetts in front of a packed crowd of more than 64,000, just three days ahead of the US beginning their quest for a fourth Gold Cup title and a spot in the coveted 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Head coach Bob Bradley put out an experimental starting eleven that showed straight away his focus was entirely on the upcoming Gold Cup, with a number of key figures not in the lineup.
Notably missing was Landon Donovan, who was left out all together due to illness, with Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra all on the bench.
After the teams probed lightly in the opening minutes, it didn't take long for "La Furia Roja" to show the extent of their quality and dangerous presence.
A subtle touch through the backline behind the defense was tapped in by David Silva within the first ten minutes but was waved off for offside, a call which was later shown to be in error on the part of the linesman.
It wasn't long before another chance came along for Spain when, in the 12th minute, a poor pass from Sacha Kljestan was intercepted in the midfield to trigger a counter for the Spanish. Two passes later a ball over the top of the defense found Alvaro Negredo who took one touch and chipped a shot over Howard that bounced off the crossbar.
The dam finally burst open in the 28th minute when David Silva took the ball up the left flank and then cut it back to Santiago Cazorla who found himself entirely open with no Americans tracking back to help on defense. He took the ball to just above the penalty spot and buried his left-footed shot into the top right corner to open the scoring 1-0.
The visitors then doubled their lead just four minutes later as Xabi Alonso played a long pass over the top to the streaking Negredo. The Sevilla striker worked between to defenders and took one settling touch before placing his left-footed strike into the left side for the 2-0 lead.
The USA finally got their first chance at goal in the 39th minute when Robbie Rogers received a chipped ball from Juan Agudelo, won the header and had it land fortuitously at his feet. The Columbus Crew winger made a half turn and let go with his left foot but was slightly off-balance, and the ball rolled innocently wide across the face of the goal.
The defending World Cup champions then found the third goal of the first half in the 41st minute, making it look far too easy.
After again attacking the USA up the left flank, Silva received a through ball and cut it back for Villa, who initially stumbled at the spot only to have the unmarked Cazorla storming into the box for another easy left-footed finish into the side netting past a hopeless Tim Howard.
The first half finally came to a close with a scoreline of 3-0 and the Americans looking amazingly outwitted and over-matched.
Bradley made a number of necessary substitutions at the break, bringing on Goodson for the lead-footed Onyewu, while also calling on Cherundolo, Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Michael Bradley in favor of Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Jozy Altidore, and Rogers.
This seemed to steady the team from the outset, with Bradley and Cherundolo particularly helpful to slow down the Spanish attack, although the Americans' own attack still was unable to generate any real scoring chances.
Spain did come close three minutes past the hour mark, as Fernando Torres took a pass from Alonso and barely missed with a chip off the crossbar.
In the ensuing minutes, US began to increasingly probe forward largely due to the work of the substitutes players, as Dempsey continued to push ahead and Wondolowski managed to force several corner kicks, however the Americans still weren't able to find the goal.
Their best chance came in the 69th minute when a wonderful ball out of the back by Michael Bradley brought a streaking Sacha Kljestan into perfect position to challenge keeper Pepe Reina. Dempsey continued his run up the middle of the park putting himself in good position for a strike, however a moment of indecision by Kljestan allowed the Spanish defense to recover and end the danger.
The World Champions then put the final dagger into the hearts of the Americans in the 73rd minute, as a counter-attack allowed Valero to pick out substitute Fernando Torres at the edge of the box. Howard came racing desperately off his line but was a moment late as Torres got to the ball first and toe poked it off the far right post and into the net for 4-0.
Bradley initiated one last attack for the US in the 78th minute with a fine pass to Dempsey, who then found late substitute Alejandro Bedoya making a run up the right side into space. The Örebro midfielder's first touch was, however, a bit too heavy and Casillas came off his line to clean it up with no problem.
The final ten minutes were played out with both teams looking as though they were just ready for the final whistle, with Uruguayan referee Roberto Silva mercifully ending the travesty at the end of regulation.
The US will have three days to regroup and prepare for the beginning of Gold Cup group play, which will begin on Tuesday night in Detroit against Canada.