On June 4, 2011 at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA thousands of fans would be left in awe as the current World Champions, Spain, took on the USMNT in a friendly matchup.
A match that would be the first of three; with Venezuela as their next opponent and an Italian Friendly without confirmed dates for this Spanish side, while it held more weight for the United States, who start their quest for the Gold Cup on Tuesday against Canada.
64, 121 fans flocked to the stadium to see the World Champions take on the USA, and for most in the stadium, it was an experience that will never be forgotten.
Spanish coach, Vicente del Bosque chose to bring a very similar squad to the one that he selected for the World Cup in South Africa last year, to the pleasure of thousands who had the great pleasure of watching players like David Villa, Fernando Torres, David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique play in the United States for the first time.
US Coach Bob Bradley chose a very different squad; a younger squad including the likes of youngsters Eric Lichaj, Robbie Rogers and Chris Wondolowski.
When asked about the absence of fan favorite Freddy Adu, Bradley stated that it was time to reevaluate where Adu stands at this point in time, and at the current moment he is not needed in the squad.
The atmosphere in and around the stadium was intense, with fans tailgating four hours prior to kickoff; Spanish and American flags decorating everything from vehicles to busses, to light poles.
Fans were beyond excited for a match that would live up to all expectations.
As the whistle blew at 4:41pm, fans were left in awe for the entire 90 minutes with Spain taking absolute control of the ball from the very first minute until the final whistle blew.
The manner in which the team can pass the ball and keep possession is best described as effortless; to watch the team keep control of the ball seemed like an effortless project for the team, while the US seemed to struggle to even get a touch of the ball, and in the instance that they did, it seemed nearly impossible for them to keep possession let alone work their way to the back of the net.
Landon Donovan, one of the forwards this U.S squad relies on heavily was out of the match due to illness, however simply missing one strong player should be no reason for such a poor performance on their behalf.
A performance which left many loyal U.S fans questioning the strength of this squad that is to represent them in the Gold Cup.
Bradley chose a 4-4-2 formation with Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo in the front, midfielders Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu. Defensively Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Oneywu, Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream were set to protect the back from the Spaniards attack, with veteran Tim Howard guarding the net.
Bradley did use five subs including Michael Bradley, Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson.
Vicente del Bosque opted for a 4-3-3 formation with David Villa, David Silva and Alvaro Negredo in the front, midfielders including Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Santiago Cazorla.
Defending in the back was Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Alvero Arbeloa, and the net guarded by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. Substitutions on the star-studded Spanish side would include Bruno Soriano, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and Iker Casillas, perhaps just to satisfy the fans as there was no need for del Bosque to change any part of his lineup.
Possession and attack was evident from the beginning, starting in the 3rd minute with an attack from Negredo followed by another attempt, this one from Villa. Silva found the net in the 8th but it was called off sides, and minutes later a ball that chipped off the top of the net off of the boot of Negredo was almost put in by Silva.
Spain seemed to be attacking every minute with the US defense almost non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, watching the Spanish team play was more than I ever expected but where was the defense?
The Spaniards ran circles around the U.S team, and when the U.S tried to attack it was shut down within seconds. Granted these are the World Champions, but there is something to be said about making an attempt at defending, one that I felt was not present during this matchup.
After countless attacks, Santiago Cazorla found the back of the net in the 28th minute, assisted by Silva and merely 3 minutes later the second goal was scored, this one by Negredo and assisted by Alonso. Cazorla was back on the attack and in the 41st minute he found the net for the second time, bringing the score to 3-0 at halftime.
When the teams returned from halftime, both sides had made considerable changes to their squads, Bradley hoping to turn things around while del Bosque decided to please the crowds by putting in fan favorites Iniesta, Torres, and Casillas while giving playtime to relatively new Soriano.
It seemed to work for the Spanish squad, with Torres finding the net in the 73rd minute; a goal that was not only important for the team but for him personally, having experienced rocky times with his move from Liverpool to Chelsea.
The entire 90 minutes saw the U.S chasing the ball with no luck against the World Champions who won the friendly match up by 4 effortless goals; certainly a game that the fans enjoyed, but one that certainly raised the question about the squad Bradley has selected for the Gold Cup.
Post-game, del Bosque was all smiles; this victory solidifying him as the Spanish Coach with most victory surpassing his predecessor, Luis Aragones, but del Bosque thanked his team stating;” It was a collective effort, we worked hard and the current FIFA ranking shows that. This is a great moment in Spanish football.”
He praised David Silva on his play, which was impeccable during the game, as well as Torres who finally found the net. “There is a lot of competition for forwards in the National squad with the likes of Villa, Negredo and Silva, but I am happy for Torres; he is a great player.”
Torres himself stated that he felt comfortable from the first minute onward, and looking forward to next season he hopes to have a more successful season.
Bradley on the other hand did not seem to be too phased by the loss, stating that it was a difficult game; “When you challenge yourself against the best team, you have to accept it.
Spain’s ability as a team is special; they move the ball intelligently and skillfully.” Furthermore, Bradley stated that even if they had won the match, they would still have understood the challenges of the Gold Cup, which is their main focus at this time.
When questioned about the strength of Altidore and Agudelo during this particular match, he defended his strikers stating “It was not the fault of Jozy or Juan not being able to find the window of opportunity.” He continued to praise Agudelo who always wants, and goes for the ball no matter where it may be, “Juan wants the ball.”
The U.S players had mixed feeling regarding the game with Agudelo saying that it was a game that the team was not used to, but that it would not harm the team in the Gold Cup quest.
Dempsey on the other hand stated that it was a good time to experiment with some options for the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup was on the mind of all the players; Altidore who stated that a 4-0 defeat is disappointing, went on to say that it was an entertaining game, but that the Gold Cup would be a very different game.
With the U.S taking on Canada in their first Gold Cup game this Tuesday, the question has to be asked; is this squad strong enough to carry Bradley and the boys to victory?
You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.