By MITCHELL NORTHAM
LANDOVER, Md. – After signing a contract with the 2015 MLS expansion team New York City FC this past week, Spanish national team forward David Villa decided it was best to get a head start on scoring goals on American soil.
“He’s one of the best goal-scorers in the world,” Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque said. “Especially when he gets into small spaces.”
In Spain’s final pre-World Cup friendly before leaving for Brazil on Sunday, Villa found himself in some smaller spots near the goal and scored both goals for Spain in their 2-0 victory against El Salvador on Saturday at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Maryland.
On paper, El Salvador doesn’t quite match-up with the reigning world and European champions. Spain’s roster is composed of stars from La Liga, the English Premier League and Serie A, while El Salvador’s most notable players compete in second and third division North and South American leagues.
But El Salvador proved to be worthy of serving as a pre-World Cup test for the Spanish; the Salvadorians played tough defense, packed the box and gave up just two goals to one of the favorites to win the World Cup. If moral victories exist then this was certainly one for El Salvador
“At the end of the day, obviously Spain is a much superior team,” Albert Roca, El Salvador’s head coach said. “But I’m proud of the way my guys played; I salute them.”
El Salvador was able to hold Spain scoreless heading into halftime, but when Villa entered the field at the start of the second half an onslaught of shots at Salvadorian goal-keeper Henry Hernandez ensued.
Villa’s first goal came thanks to his head and a pass from Sergio Ramos in the 60th minute and his second came in the 88th minute as he put one past the keeper while a defender hung on his back.
But for Spain in this pre-World Cup warm-up, the goals were nice but they didn’t matter nearly as much as did the health and fitness of some of their players like Xabi Alonso and Diego Costa.
Costa missed a few weeks of play with a hamstring injury, but played 74 minutes and registered two shots-on-goal before being subbed off for Xavi Hernandez.
“He’s still regaining his fitness,” del Bosque said. “But overall I thought he played well after not playing for a few weeks.”
The level of talent that Spain will face in Brazil will be far greater than what El Salvador brought to the table and their opening game in group stage play will be against the Netherlands; a rematch of the 2010 World Cup Final that Spain won thanks to a late goal from Andres Iniesta.
“We don’t fear them,” del Bosque said. “But we do respect them.”