© Scott Bales/isiphotos.com
A technically superior Spain defeated the US 1-0 on the strength of a late Xavi goal. The US played much better than it did a week ago against England but its players lacked the confidence and technical ability to compete with one of the best teams in the world. Only Freddy Adu consistently displayed the characteristics necessary to win at this level and he was substituted at half-time after two harsh tackles–one ill-timed, one cynical–left him hobbled. Adu sought out the ball and distributed it efficiently and dangerously, partnering well with Eddie Johnson. Johnson should have done better in his three clearest opportunities, the best a relatively free header from five yards that he sprayed wide. I haven’t given up on Johnson but I don’t think he is the best choice for the US right now. A healthy Landon Donovan partnered with Brian Ching should be the first choice tandem. The purpose of these friendlies is to see who is able to stack up against the best. In that regard, yesterday’s match was a success.
As a fan of the US the difficult part about watching yesterday’s match was noticing the glaring talent gap between Spain’s best and the best of the US. The touches from Michael Bradly, Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey and Johnson were not clean; the passes weren’t particularly crisp. It is these little things that differentiate mid-tier players battling for playing time from stars of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool. Physically the US can compete; technically and tactically, there is still work to be done.
Jeffrey Marcus of the New York Times rated the US players. The only rating I take issue with is Onyewu’s 2 (of a 1-10 scale, 1=diabolical, 10=world class): he was partially at fault for the goal but other than it had a solid match. Michael Bradley’s tired legs were more to blame. If Bob Bradley had heard and listened to commentator John Harkes’s pleadings to substitute in Pablo Mastroeni for Bradley, the junior, that goal does not happen.
The US has one more friendly before the matches count and it doesn’t get any easier as it plays top-rated Argentina in New Jersey. Lionel Messi and Argentina thrashed Mexico 4-1 yesterday in San Diego.