The Americans came into this match simply wanting to stay healthy, while co-mingling younger, less experienced players with a few veterans. They were successful in the former; unfortunately Spain is not a team that you can expect to beat with a weakened side, and the visitors made life very tough for the US defense.
The first half was controlled with ease by the Spaniards. Their brand of football confounded the home side. David Silva, David Villa, and Xabi Alonso were fluid with their dribbles and synchronous with their passing. Spain appeared to open the scoring in the 9th minute as Silva popped in a cross from Alvaro Arbeloa, but Arbeloa was wrongly called offside by the assistant. Then in the 12th minute, Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo got behind the defense and caught US keeper Tim Howard coming out from goal. Negredo chipped over Howard, but the ball struck the woodwork and was eventually cleared to safety.
The crowd could feel the dam nearing its breaking point, and it did in the 28th minute. Silva was played into the clear down the left, as he had been several times during the early match. He found space, passed across the area to two open attackers. Santi Cazorla got there first and found goal to take the 1-0 lead. Negredo made it a two goal lead less than 5 minutes later, as he calmly shot the ball past Howard after a glorious long through by Alonso put him behind defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Ream.
Cazorla scored his second on the night from nearly the identical spot as his first, in the 41st minute. Another Silva pass from the left deflected as it came through the area, but the ball teed nicely for Cazorla to curl it into the upper left corner. The crowd was left scratching their heads how the midfielder could be so wide open for the shot. For the Yanks, the only first half chance came as a ball rested to Robbie Rogers’ feet inside the 18. He hooded his shot a bit, which turned it well wide to the right and without good pace.
The halftime 3-0 lead for Spain may have understated the dominance the European giants enjoyed during the opening 45. After the break, the Americans made some substitutions, and afterward did enjoy more possession and a couple of excellent chances to score. The addition of Clint Dempsey to the attack opened things up, and the defense looked much better with the experience of Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo. Unfortunately, the Spanish squad had one more goal in them, a connection between two second-half entrants. Borja Valero found Fernando Torres with a through ball behind the defense, and the Chelsea striker slyly slid the ball around Howard to close the scoring in the 73rd minute. The match closed at 4-0, with the Americans looking forward to getting the Gold Cup underway.
There’s not much one can draw from this match. Spain is nearly a La Liga All-Star team, minus one Leo Messi. For the Americans, the hope is that Landon Donovan’s illness isn’t serious, and that he’s ready for the Canada match Tuesday. Against a team like Spain, the odds of winning were small especially with the squad played by Bob Bradley. The American backline was gashed a couple of times on long throughs, and that is a concern. Another concern is Jozy Altidore. He has become an enigma for the United States, and doesn’t appear to be an adequate partner for Juan Agudelo up front. The offense was most dangerous with Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski playing up front. It will be interesting to see how Bradley shapes the squad on Tuesday.
I’ll be back on Tuesday night to give you a recap of the opener against Canada. Go USA!
UNITED STATES – Howard; Spector, Onyewu (Goodson 46′), Ream, Lichaj; Kljestan, Edu (Bradley 46′), Jones (Cherundolo 46′), Rogers (Dempsey, 46′); Altidore (Wondolowski 46′), Agudelo (Bedoya 65′)
SPAIN – Reina (Casillas 76′); Ramos (Capdevila 65′), Pique, Albiol, Arbeloa; Cazorla, Busquets (Soriano 46′), Alonso; Negredo (Iniesta 46′), Villa (Torres 46′), Silva (Valero 65′)
ADDITION – Here are more stats that I took from yesterday. May not be 100% accurate, but it’s what I saw: