US Soccer Gets Dominated By Spain In Pre-Gold Cup Friendly
With the United States’ Gold Cup opener against Canada only three days away, American manager Bob Bradley put out a starting lineup lacking the nation’s best players-and promptly saw the world champion Spanish rip it to shreds.
Spain scored three goals in 13 minutes near the end of the first half and added another in the second period, giving La Roja a 4-0 win Saturday in a friendly match played before 64,121 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The match was the first between the two teams since the United States beat Spain 2-0 at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.
"Spain is a great team, and it’s a tough test," Bradley said. "Even tougher to play them right on the eve of the Gold Cup."
All-time leading goal scorer Landon Donovan was ruled out with an illness and captain Carlos Bocanegra wasn't even named among the substitutes. Midfielders Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, as well as defender Steve Cherundolo, started the game on the bench.
Spain too put out a squad without some of its best players, as No. 1 goalkeeper Iker Casillas and midfield general Andres Iniesta didn’t feature in the starting eleven. Usual midfield stars Xavi and Cesc Fabregas didn't even make the trip to the States.
La Roja, however, hardly missed them. Spain dominated possession throughout the match and put eight shots on goal, compared to only one for the Americans.
Spain had a goal unfairly disallowed for offside in the 10th minute. Defender Alvaro Arbeloa's cross was turned into the American goal by midfielder David Silva, but the linesman nullified the goal, wrongly ruling Arbeloa offside prior to his pass to Silva.
The Spanish continued their siege of Tim Howard's goal three minutes later, when forward Alvaro Negredo chipped a shot over the American goalkeeper and off of the crossbar.
The breakthrough came in the 28th minute, when Santi Cazorla received a pass from Silva near the top of the penalty box and fired a left-footed rocket into the upper left corner of the goal.
Four minutes later, the Spanish added another. Xabi Alonso found forward Alvaro Negredo behind the American defense with a perfectly weighted long pass from the midfield circle. Two touches later, Negredo put a left-footed shot inside the far post, past a diving Howard.
Howard came up with a strong save on a Silva shot in the 38th minute, but the goalkeeper couldn’t stem the Spanish tide. In the 41st minute, Silva wiggled free down the left flank and sent a low cross into the box. Villa swung and missed (with some contact from an American defender) but the ball rolled to a charging Cazorla, who notched his second goal of the match with a slotted low shot past a rooted Howard.
The only half-chance the Americans managed in the first period was a weak shot put well wide by midfielder Robbie Rogers in the 40th minute.
The start of the second half brought wholesale changes to the United States lineup. Defenders Cherundolo and Clarence Goodson, midfielders Dempsey and Bradley, and forward Chris Wondolowski entered the match and the Americans looked better for it.
Bradley played midfielder Sacha Klejstan in past the Spanish defense in the 70th minute, but the American took too long on the ball before playing a pass behind a charging Dempsey.
Cherundolo’s long pass for Wondolowski two minutes later looked like it could create danger, but the striker couldn’t control the ball with his first touch.
Spanish substitute striker Fernando Torres ended the Americans' rally in the 73rd minute. Fellow substitute Borja Valero’s pass slipped between Cherundolo and Ream, leaving Torres in alone against Howard. The Chelsea striker toe-poked the ball off of the far post and into the net for the fourth and final Spanish goal.
"We like taking these challenges and hope an experience like this helps us in the next couple of weeks," Bradley said. "If we didn't think we could handle it, we wouldn't play these games."
News and Notes
-- Bob Bradley said after the match about Donovan’s illness: "Yesterday he was feeling a bit weak…We are hoping it’s a 24-hour thing."
-- The United States opens its Gold Cup campaign Tuesday night against Canada in Detroit. The neighboring countries haven’t met on the soccer field since June of 2007, a 2-1 United States victory in the semifinals of that year’s Gold Cup. The Americans lead the all-time series 12-8, with nine draws.
-- Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, appeared on the halftime show of ESPN's broadcast of the match to talk about FIFA's recent corruption scandal. Gulati and the USSF have received criticism for voting for incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who ran unopposed in this week's election.
"We didn’t think it made sense to abstain," Gulati said. "[Blatter] has promised reforms. We support a lot of reforms, even beyond maybe where he’s willing to go right now."
About a possible re-vote for the chance to host the 2022 World Cup after allegations of bribery have surfaced against officials from Qatar, Gulati said, "Who knows what might happen in the future? But as of right now, we're just waiting. Nothing is ever zero percent."
-- Up next for the top-ranked Spanish is a trip to Venezuela for a Tuesday night friendly. Venezuela is preparing for this summer’s Copa America and won its last match 2-0 against Guatemala.