After watching World Champion Spain dispose of the Americans 4-0, I’m left wondering. I’m left wondering a lot of things... It seems as though the game would have gone about much differently if not for some questionable personnel decisions, but we’ll get to that.
This game never needed to happen. This game never should have gone down the way it did. I’ve been very pleased over the past few years with the quality opponents that U.S. Soccer has put together, but why choose four days before a crucial tournament to tackle the number one team in the world? The logic is lost on me unless of course you’re hoping to provide a stern test to your best players.
However, the best players did not all feature in the match. In a match on home soil when taking on this elite team, why not give your ‘A’ team a chance to work together in the days leading up to the Gold Cup? Left off the game day roster were Donovan, Bornstein, Bocanegra and Adu. Donovan’s absence can be forgiven as he was ill. It’s very likely that Bornstein and Bocanegra will see ample time in the tournament, why leave them out? Furthermore, national team staples Bradley and Dempsey were left to ride the bench in the first half. The team was down 3-0 before they entered the match.
It was almost disrespectful to have Spain bring such an elite group and then pit them against half our backups. The game proved a frustrating reminder to fans of the USA’s efforts in the Copa America some years back in which a USA ‘B/C’ team was demolished by South American giants.
Many comparisons will be made to the match in the 2009 Confederations Cup, in which the Americans defeated Spain to advance in the tournament. The comparisons though should stop after naming the contenders.
"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."
There is value in playing the best team in the world. It however is the timing that I call into question. Four days before beginning a major tournament does not seem the most appropriate time. Against Spain, the Americans were forced to defend most of the match; will this be how they play against Canada? Guadalupe? Panama? If so then things have changed.
Mexico played New Zealand in their Gold Cup tune-up. They ran rampant against them. The Mexicans were able to fine-tune their lineup, practice formations and attacking soccer. The USA can make no such claims.
Too many questions came as a result of Spain’s destruction of USA and not nearly enough were answered. The American’s though will need to put that behind them and focus on a match that matters. Canada awaits the USA in Detroit where the two teams kick off their Gold Cup campaigns.
Expect a different lineup, different tactics, and a different attitude from the U.S. on that night.