Sunday, June 5, 2011

Five Things We Learned From USA vs Spain

1. At the back, the US simply must improve- Perhaps it is a little harsh to accuse a team of defensive instability after being annihilated by the Spaniards, but here I believe it is a fair assessment. Though Spain did only score four, the US looked completely out of their depth when faced with the dynamic Spanish attack. Once again, Onyewu was slow and uncertain, forever out of position, forever a liability. Next to him, Tim Ream failed to show any of the promise which has earned him a place in the national team squad, he and Onyewu let the Spanish strikers get behind them far too many times. In the full back positions, neither Eric Lichaj nor Jonathan Spector showed much of an inclination to get forward, and on those rare occasions that they did, end product was sorely lacking.

2. Chris Wondolowski might be a better option than Jozy Altidore- US soccer fans are getting to that point with Jozy Altidore. After a promising start to his career both in club football and with the national team, the powerful center forward seems to have lost his way. Following a transfer to Villareal, Altidore has been short of form, and his loan stints around the world have all been unsuccessful. For the national team as well, Altidore has been poor. Since playing brilliantly against Spain in the Confederations Cup semi final of 2009, Altidore has fallen away, failing to score when it matters most. After viewing the United States' loss yesterday, my hopes of a renaissance for Jozy are fast dissipating. The striker looked sluggish, totally ineffective, at a loss as to how to best combat the water tight Spain defense. I hate to say it, but when Altidore was taken off and Wondo brought on in his stead, the US immediately looked more dangerous Wondolowski did well with what little of the ball he was able to see.

3. Sacha Klejstan is not the answer in central midfield- In a game showcasing so many superbly skilled attacking midfield players, it is a shame that Bob Bradley chose not to play the best one that he personally could have had available. Meant to provide the spark in a stodgy midfield featuring destroyers like Jermain Jones and Maurice Edu, Klejstan was unimpressive, failing to put any kind of stamp on the match. While Spaniards like Borja Valero were able to come on and immediately spray the passes around like they had been in from the start, Klejstan failed miserably. Sitting at home, Jose Francisco Torres must have wondered what he needed to do to get into Bradley's side, Torres is a player that could have provided the United States with some real attacking impetus, but instead he was forced to watch from home.

4. The Spain reserves are pretty good too- No Xavi, no Iniesta, no Torres, yet in the first half of their four-nil mauling of the US, Spain looked every bit like World champions. Despite barely resembling the team which stepped out to face Holland in South Africa, Spain's passing remained seamless, their interplay immaculate. In midfield, Silva showed that their is life after Xavi, while the cameo appearance of Borja Valero was also encouraging. Up front, Alvaro Negredo proved that their is an able replacement for Fernando Torres in tow, if the striker continues to misfire next season. Negredo's delicate, cross bar kissing chip at 0-0 was just as impressive as the goal he would score twenty minutes later.

5. The US must learn how to frustrate a possession oriented team- Many a US fan, disappointed by their country's humbling at the hands of the Spaniards, will take solace in the fact that at the upcoming Gold Cup the States will not have to play opposition with nearly as much quality. In some ways, that is true, the US will not have to face any side that progressed farther than them in last year's World Cup, and their initial opponents will be teams likely ripe for the slaughter. However, the United States' Gold Cup campaign will not be defined by the number of goals they smash past Guadeloupe and Panama, but by how they fare in the final, against Mexico. It is here where the memories of yesterday's defeat to Spain could be evoked. Though obviously not as classy, Mexico play the game in a similar style to the World champions, a style that had the US at a loss yesterday. When up against the Mexicans, Bradley's team must learn how to control the game when in possession, and hustle the opposition when the don't. Lessons learned on Saturday could come in handy.

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