A match that has been anticipated by thousands of fans as they counted down the days to a showdown that can best be described as one of absolute excitement. An excitement that was reflected in the ticket sales, which stood at 61, 000 merely 24 hours before kick-off.
The energy to be felt all around the Westin, in Providence, RI, the location that the Spanish team chose to make their home for three days. Hordes of fans waiting in the lobby, and on the street corners for a mere glance at the World Champions, who chose to bring a squad quite similar to the winning squad that travelled to South Africa last year.
It was a dream come true for some of the fans who managed to find a press conference that was open to the public; a press conference with Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas. Questions ranged from the validity of the tension between opposing players from rival teams FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Both players stated that there was no truth to that statement, it is how the game works out but when they travel together for their country, it is all business. For most of the players on the squad, their season has already ended and this trip will certainly be a fun way to end the season.
One RBNY fan, Kristian Lolo from Elizabeth, NJ, asked Casillas what his thoughts were on young Juan Agudelo; a US striker to be reckoned with, one that almost always finds the net for USMNT, with his last goal against Argentina in March.
To the dismay of the fan, Casillas was blatantly unaware of who Agudelo is, but the fan chose optimism and stated that “Maybe after the game today, he will know.”
Vicente del Bosque, the coach of the Spanish National Team, stated that “We will try to maximize with what we have, and expect to do well.” This game being compared to the Concacaf they played last year in South Africa, he stated that the players are the same; “Strong, and tactically they play well”.
When Bosque was asked about that “supposed tension” between the Real Madrid players and the Barcelona players, he too stated that there was none. “They are all professionals, we come together and we concentrate. There is no rivalry.”
The team that he has selected to bring to Foxborough is similar to the squad that won the World Cup last year, “Perhaps a few small changes, but in reality it is not that different. The spirit and desire to win is always there. These players would like to end their season on a good note, and that is our intention.”
On the other side of the spectrum, this game carries more weight for Coach Bob Bradley and the USMNT squad, who begin their Gold Cup chase on Tuesday night. He stated that “The opportunity to play the World Champions is special to all of us, this will be a great test for us.”
Furthermore, he added that this game may not be as important as the Gold Cup, but that the team can still use it in their favor; finding a balance is most important, Bradley would like to utilize all 6 subs, but that also means having a plan for four players who will play the full 90.
This game will grant Bradley one more opportunity to experiment with some options for the Gold Cup.
The USMNT squad boasts 6 MLS players, and Bradley proudly stated that “There is still a good number of players playing internationally, but players coming through MLS getting their chance to play for the national squad is equally as important.”
Pointing to both Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo, who both play for the New York Red Bulls, both players ended their season on a high note last year, and they are both on the roster to play this match.
Bradley added that the chance to play the World Champions on US soil is amazing; “Great for fans of the USA! Their way of playing is one that people like to watch, whether on television or live, but to have them here is just special.”
The comparison of play between FC Barcelona and the Spanish squad in their ability to possess the ball is one that most coaches desire. What is it about this Spanish national team that makes it seem like possession and passing are effortless?
Can it be said that it was just good timing to get such great players at the same time? Bradley disagreed with the “lucky” statement thrown out by a fellow journalist and instead insisted that it is a “Combination of ancestry, their humbleness and the way they develop their players in youth programs.”
Clint Dempsey agreed with Bradley on the “luck” of this Spanish side that seems unstoppable but vowed that the US team felt confident. “They know how to keep possession and it may be hard to get the ball from them, but we are going to do our best.”
Let us hope that best is good enough, although I do not believe that any fan will be left disappointed after the match; a match that is sure to be one for the history books.
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