THE SHOWDOWN WITH SPAIN
RECAPS
PREVIEWS
EXTRA TIME
BRENT LATHAM - Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Yesterday was a travel day for us and the US national team, as we headed south from Rustenburg down the main highway to Bloemfontein. The US flew in but we journalists got to drive - four hours through a midwestern like countryside, to the cold city on the border with Lesotho. So here is what I've been thinking about during the trip.

The Potential Excuses

There are already a million reasons not to beat Spain, and they're legit. FIFA's organization has really hurt the already reduced US chances by setting up a difficult situation. The US has only two days to prepare for the best team in the world.

Here's the situation: The US game ended at almost midnight Sunday in Rustenburg, and they play Spain Wednesday night in Bloemfontein, some 400 miles to the south. Spain, on the other hand, played its last group match Saturday and has been in Bloemfontein since last Wednesday, for its last two group matches.

On top of that, Spain practically clinched the group in the second game - though technically they had to win or draw against South Africa, and has used 22 of its 23 players in the first round. The US, well we know, had to scrap it out. But the US doesn't control any of that and they have not been using any of it as an excuse, aside from saying that yes, obviously, they are a bit tired.

On top of it FIFA somehow avoided telling the US where or when it would train until late Tuesday afternoon. The organization here has been a joke of sorts, everyone is very nice but niceness doesn't always mean competence - but that's an issue for a later date.

Spain

Spain is trying its best to take the US seriously given the circumstances. At their press conference they fielded a number of questions about teams they are not playing, Italy and Egypt. While respectfully saying the US is just as hard a test, it was clear that they felt Italy would have been a tougher one, but that is probably obvious.

When asked which players particularly worried them, the Spanish players did express admiration for the speed of the American attack led by Landon Donovan. Coach Vicente del Bosque said he was intrigued by the play of Charlie Davies against Egypt as well, and he said he wasn't sure that Spain's back line had the pace to deal with him and Altidore at once.

Del Bosque, according to the Spanish media, has been hyping the USA all week, telling the media not to count the US out when considering semifinal opponents. Apparently now that makes him, besides a winner, sort of a prophet.

The American line - up

I've had pretty good success guessing what Coach Bradley is going to do so far, but this matchup leaves me a bit mystified as far as predicting the coach's selection. Though Spain clearly fears most the US that showed up against Egypt and attacked, I'm not sure that's an idea Bradley will share. And he may be right.

The US is capable of playing the sort of wide open game it played against Egypt and producing chances, but Spain is much more clinical than Egypt and will punish the chances they get in return. If we see that kind of game, it may the sort of of 4-2 or 5-3 result that wins the US street cred, but the Americans are not going to win that kind of game.

So Coach Bradley will likely revert to a 4-5-1, leaving Davies on the bench from the outset. The back four will likely be the same as always. Though Carlos Bocanegra has been training again, I don't expect him to take Jay DeMerit's spot. Expect Jozy Altidore alone up top for the first sixty minutes.

In the midfield, I expect Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley in the middle, and Clint Dempsey on the left. Landon Donovan will obviously be on the field, either on the right or in a withdrawn forward role.

I'd expect Benny Feilhaber to be the other man on the field, either on the right side where he played the final thirty minutes against Egypt, or in that attacking midfielder role. The other option would be for Donovan to go out right and Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan to pay in the center, though the way Landon's been tearing it up, I expect him mostly in a central role Wednesday night.

I invite you to leave your own starting lineup below. See you soon!
parlancelot
Wednesday June 24, 2009 10:02 am
Howard
spector demerit gooch bocanegra
bradley clark
adu torres
donovan
altidore

i would especially love to see Bocanegra in the back four. They would be fierce!
Krum
Tuesday June 23, 2009 10:17 pm
I love the quip about the Spanish Coach not being sure you can deal with the speed of Altidore and Davies. Yes, because Ronaldo and Rooney troubled Pique and Puyol so mightily.

It's not that I think that we don't have some dangerous options, but please, this is the Spanish coach trying to build us up in the papers to make their victory, their record breaking victory, more meaningful.

As an ultra US fan, I think we have a shot. But we need to complete passes. Feilhaber, Torres, and Adu are needed. As for Adu not being match fit right now, who's freaking fault is that? Two substitutions would have proven if he's ready.
KenC
Tuesday June 23, 2009 9:19 pm
Freddy is totally out of game shape, but he was the most dangerous player the US had the last time the US played Spain. I wonder if we shouldn't put out our most possession-oriented side, out of a group, including Freddy, Torres, Sascha, Benny, Landon, Clint and Jozy.
dbcoyle
Tuesday June 23, 2009 7:51 pm
Really? Kljestan instead of Adu or Benny? Really? Adu would just play out of his head given the chance after a 3 game no show. Think of the danger and attention he would draw from spain players, opening up others for attack, were he to play tomorrow. Finally, I repeat, Altidore has got to do some more running off the ball. He just looks tired all the time until the ball hits him in the feet, then he's dangerous. Speaking of dangerous, I think Mathis still has the most dangerous shot in the states, and with his rejuvenated career, as well as Quaranta... those 2 should be in this lineup.
Scott
Tuesday June 23, 2009 6:41 pm
Howard

Spector Onyewu DeMerit Bornstein

Feilhaber Clark Bradley Donovan

Davies Altidore

Won't be the lineup, but it's the one I'd like to see..
jcrw
Tuesday June 23, 2009 5:52 pm
Line-up Spain

RB-Spetcor
CB-Demerit
CB-Gooch
LB-Bocanegra (his actual spot for Stade Rennes)
CM X 3-Bradley(def), Clark (def), Feilhaber (attack)
RM-Torres
LM-Donovan
ST-Dempsey
dubVman
Tuesday June 23, 2009 4:33 pm
Howard
Spector Demerit Onyewu Bornstein
Bradley
Feilhaber Donovan
Torres
Davies Altidore

That is the line-up I would field.
Laferson
Tuesday June 23, 2009 4:02 pm
I think most of that sounds right, but I think Donovan will play more on the left since his best games of late have come from the left side, and because he's been playing well defensively from the wing position.

I also agree that Davies probably won't start, though I think this is a mistake--In my mind, pace is usually underestimated. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if Dempsey were the one to work up top with Altidore while also working through the midfield, which would probably open the door for Feilhaber on the right, just as you mentioned.

However, instead of Feilhaber, I would like to see Torres because he can play better defense, and because of his poise on the ball (for all of his vision, Feilhaber gives up the ball way too much). That would probably mean having Donovan on the right--which is perfectly fine--with Torres on the left. I think that line up would give the U.S. the best mix of defense and offense.
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