Three quick thoughts on U.S.-Spain
The timing of the game just before Gold Cup can be considered ill-advised
Forward Jozy Altidore disappointed with his play and needs to step it up
CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament now becomes a must-win for the U.S.
Three thoughts after Spain's 4-0 win against the United States on Saturday in Foxboro, Mass.:
This game shouldn't have been scheduled. The U.S. was thoroughly embarrassed by the reigning World Cup champions, who raced to an easy 3-0 halftime lead against a U.S. lineup that was overmatched, out-hustled and outthought. Granted, the Americans didn't start their two best players -- Clint Dempsey came on in the second half and Landon Donovan sat out the game altogether with a reported illness -- but you need to play your best players when you've got more than 60,000 fans and the world champion on hand. Bob Bradley no doubt wants Donovan and Dempsey for Tuesday's Gold Cup opener against Canada, but this result (and the way Spain achieved it) is a stomach punch for U.S. fans who want to see their team show better on the world stage.
Jozy Altidore needs to show something this month. I know, I know, the U.S.'s starting midfield lacked anyone who might be considered a creative player, so maybe you can give Altidore a break for the lack of service. But Altidore's movement (or lack thereof) these days is not encouraging at all for a player who is under the gun when it comes to keeping his job as a starting forward. On Saturday, Altidore either wasn't making the necessary runs at all or he was starting them far too late. At a time when the U.S.' biggest rival (Mexico) has a forward (Javier Hernández) who is starting and scoring repeatedly for Manchester United, Altidore has done little in European soccer over the past two years since showing so well against this Spain team in the 2009 Confederations Cup. He needs to show more urgency this month during the Gold Cup.
More than ever, the U.S. needs to win the Gold Cup. As if the U.S. didn't have enough reasons to reclaim the Gold Cup title -- to earn a Confederations Cup berth, to reestablish confederation supremacy -- the Americans have to realize that USA 0, SPAIN 4 will be the biggest headline this team gets in the domestic media until and unless they win the Gold Cup final on June 25. Perceptions matter, and mainstream American sports fans won't care much that the U.S. didn't start Donovan, Dempsey, Michael Bradley or Carlos Bocanegra here. Winning the Gold Cup, especially if the final would happen to be against Mexico, would go a long way toward making up for an ugly score line against the World Cup champion, which most definitely played like one.