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June 3, 2011

United States vs Spain Preview

 USMNT vs Spain Preview

The U.S. men recently wrapped up their camp in North Carolina and have now traveled to New England in preparation for a much anticipated friendly versus Spain at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts (Saturday, June 4 at 3:30 p.m. Central on ESPN).

The impressiveness of Spain's roster cannot be understated. They make a convincing case for being the best team in the world (even while leaving home stars like Xavi, Puyol, and Fabregas), and will provide a "warm-up" for the U.S. as the team prepares to compete in the Gold Cup (CONCACAF's regional championship) during the next few weeks.

The U.S. men play Canada just three days after (June 7) to start Gold Cup play and will round out their group against Panama (June 11) and Guadeloupe (June 14). U.S. fans always expect their team to reach the final of the regional championship (North America, Central American, and the Caribbean).

Mexico waits on the other side of the bracket, and if there are no significant surprises, the two North American powerhouses could meet in a highly anticipated final on June 25 in Los Angeles.

The Spain game in New England is only a friendly, and serves as a warm-up match for the busy month ahead.  However, unpacking the recent history between the two teams reveals a dramatically set stage.

The reigning world champions have brought 17 players from their 2010 World Cup roster, which also includes 6 who play for the recently crowned European Champion, Barcelona. Despite Spain's impressive résumé, many will remember the United States' 2-0 upsetting of Spain back in 2009 at the Confederations Cup in South Africa. However, history doesn't favor the Americans, who have only beaten Spain once.

So the leading question should be, does this fixture serve as a constructive warm-up game for the United States? 

At first glance, it's tempting to say yes because it's true the the U.S. won't face a more difficult opponent during the month of June (obviously, Spain is the world's best). So, if the Americans can squeeze out some result against Spain tomorrow, their confidence will sky-rocket going into the tournament.

Realistically, though, getting a result against Spain comes against high odds. They will have to fight just to draw the game, and Bradley will employ the same sit-back-and-defend tactic that they've had to rehearse recently against Argentina and others. 

In order to get a result against Spain, the U.S. will absorb pressure for long periods of time, and will count on breaking out in bursts as their only offense (really this isn't a tactical knock against Bradley--that's the way you have to play Spain or Argentina).

In order to advance in the Gold Cup, the U.S. will need to employ a more balanced, attacking style against some of the weaker teams in CONCACAF. The style of play we will see during the rest of June will be much different than what we see tomorrow. We may even see a totally different line-up or formation against Spain than we see against Panama or Guadeloupe.

This is where it doesn't make much sense. Why schedule a team that looks much different than any team you'll see in a tournament you hope to win, that will force you to play a style very different than the style you hope to win with? When you approach it like that, Spain doesn't appear so serve as a very effective "warm-up."

Now, will it be fun and will it make money?


Will confidence soar if, by chance, we win or tie?


Is it likely that we'll lose 2-0, 3-0, or 4-0?

Also yes. 

Is that what you want "warming-up" for a big tournament?

Absolutely not.

Spain's 23 Man Roster:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), José Manuel Reina (Liverpool), Víctor Valdés (Barcelona)

Defenders: Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Raúl Albiol (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Carlos Marchena (Villarreal), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Andoni Iraola (Athletic Bilbao)

Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal), Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona), Bruno Soriano (Villarreal), Borja Valero (Villarreal)

Forwards: David Villa (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Pedro Rodríguez (Barcelona), Manu Del Moral (Sevilla), Álvaro Negredo (Sevilla)

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