By FRANCO PANIZO
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The circumstances were much different than they were in South Africa in 2009, and so was the result.
Nearly two years after shocking Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals, the U.S. men's national team fell, 4-0, to the World Cup champs in its final friendly before the Gold Cup. It took Spain just under half an hour to crack the Americans' defense, but there was no response to Santi Cazorla's opener from a U.S. team missing some of its top players.
With Landon Donovan out with an illness, and with Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley starting the game on the bench, the U.S. team struggled to find any offensive rhythm when it did have the ball against the usually-stingy Spain.
"You can't compare this to two years ago," said head coach Bob Bradley. "This is a friendly. It's a friendly where we're starting the Gold Cup in three days, so even as far as decisions we have to make about lineups and that kind of thing, there's not much that you can really compare."
What you could compare was Spain's domination of possession. This time, however, the Spaniards were able to break through.
After hitting shots off the crossbar and post in the opening 15 minutes, Spain opened the scoring when David Silva slipped a ball to Cazorla, who hit a shot from inside the penalty area past Tim Howard.
The United States surrendered another goal four minutes later, as Alvaro Negredo scored easily after Xabi Alonso sprung him loose with a perfect long ball over the top.
"They're going to expose you," said Howard. "When you talk about what things we need to work on, it may be the case that we could work for six months and not get that right against them. They're that good."
Spain was so good in the first half that it scored a third goal four minutes before halftime. After David Silva played a ball to Cazorla in the penalty box, the Villarreal winger nailed a shot just inside the post, leaving Howard motionless and visibly frustrated.
Just as Bradley had mentioned the day before the game, the U.S. team made several substitutions at halftime. Veterans like Cherundolo, Dempsey and Michael Bradley were inserted in the lopsided game, and the result was an improved showing for the Americans.
The U.S. team still lost the possession battle in the second half, but it was actually able to keep the ball and looked more dangerous going forward. Dempsey and Bradley were at the center of most of the U.S. attacks, but no goal came as a result of that.
Even with the improved play, the Americans conceded one more goal as second-half substitute Fernando Torres got behind Cherundolo and poked the ball home on a one-on-one chance against Howard in the 73rd minute.
It was not one of their best performances, but the Americans must now put the 4-0 loss behind them as they have just three days before their Gold Cup begins against Canada at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
"We went out there, we got a good run out, we got our asses kicked and at least we're healthy," said Howard. "I hope to God that we have the right mentality on Tuesday, and I believe in this group, and I think we will."
What do you think of Spain's 4-0 demolition of the United States? Who impressed/disappointed you? Expecting the Americans to bounce back against Canada in the Gold Cup opener in three days?
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