FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two years ago, the United States men’s soccer team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in its history when it toppled Spain, 2-0, at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
Saturday’s match on home soil, however, looked strikingly different.
The U.S. fell behind 3-0 in the first half and never recovered, losing 4-0 to the World Cup champions in an international friendly match in front of 64,121 fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
“When you challenge yourself against the best teams, you have to accept that this is the way it can be sometimes,” U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said. “You can’t compare this to two years ago. This is a friendly where we’re starting the Gold Cup in three days.”
Bradley opted not to field his “A” team in the first half, saving many of his star players for next week’s Gold Cup – the top prize for the U.S. this summer. His son, midfielder Michael Bradley, right back Steve Cherundolo and midfielder Clint Dempsey – all usual starters – watched the first half from the bench. Captain Carlos Bocanegra and leading scorer Landon Donovan, who was sidelined with an illness, did not make the 18-man roster.
“[Donovan] started showing signs late yesterday,” Bradley said. “Today, he was just a little weak and hopefully this is a 24-hour thing and he’ll be ready to go.”
The U.S. was not ready to go against Spain’s vaunted attack and dynamic midfield in the first half. Santiago Cazorla struck twice in the first half – in the 28th and 41st minute – and Alvaro Negredo scored in the 32nd minute to give the Spaniards an early lead.
Spain’s David Silva was a nuisance all day, penetrating the United States’ back line a number of times and setting up both of Cazorla’s goals.
“He’s controlled the ball well when he’s had to and moved the ball around well when’s had to. He had a great game,” Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque said.
The United States was allowed six substitutions and used them all. Michael Bradley, Dempsey, Cherundolo, Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson all came on at the start of the second half. Alejandro Bedoya came on in the 65th minute.
The U.S. generated some chances in the second half, but Spain scored the half’s lone goal with a Fernando Torres strike in the 73rd minute. Spain out-shot the Americans, 20-6, and put eight shots on goal. The U.S. managed just one.
“Every game you lose, it hurts, but we can learn from it,” Cherundolo said. “Today shows how much better we need to be under pressure.”
The United States departed Saturday night for Detroit, where it opens up Gold Cup play Tuesday against Canada.
“They’ve had some results in the last six months, so we understand that the first game of any tournament is always a tough one and we expect a tough game against a good rival,” Bradley said.
The Americans then play Panama Saturday and finish up Group C play the following Tuesday against Guadeloupe. The U.S., which has won the tournament four times, has never lost a group stage match, going 23-0-2 since 1991.