BRENT LATHAM - Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The US will attempt to further its newly acquired penchant for miracle working as they face European champions and world number one Spain on Wednesday night in cold and rainy Bloemfontein.

After reaching the semifinals against all odds with a comprehensive 3-0 dismantling of Egypt, the Americans' prize is a date with the Red Fury, winners of their last 15 matches and unbeaten in a record tying 35 internationals.

As if the Spaniards weren't a stiff enough test on their own, the Americans have had only one practice since Sunday night's game, having traveled south from Rustenburg on Monday to the southern city of Bloemfontein, where the Spanish have been based for the last week.

The Americans nevertheless will come into the game loose after pulling off their stunning victory and qualification. The team enjoyed a short safari Monday morning before heading south, and has little pressure to defeat the team clearly considered the world's best at this juncture.

Coach Bob Bradley has a full squad to choose from for the first time since the Italy match, and against the Spanish attack may elect for a more defensive minded 4-5-1 similar to the lineup he chose against Italy, with Jozy Altidore again getting the start up top.

Carlos Bocanegra has returned to training after missing the first three matches, but is unlikely to replace Jay DeMerit in the center of defense.

Oguchi Onyewu will continue as a rock in the middle. The soon-to-be former Standard Liege man, who has been linked recently with Turkish club Fenerbache will likely be flanked once again by Jonathan Spector on the right and Jonathan Bornstein on the left.

In the midfield Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley will almost certainly be the central pairing, with the red hot Landon Donovan linking the midfield to the attack. Clint Dempsey will start on one of the flanks, and Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Klejstan are Bradley's likely options for the final spot if he chooses to play defensively and leave Charlie Davies on the bench.

Spain Coach Vicente Del Bosque has a wealth of rested options to choose from, having played 22 of his 23 players in first round victories over New Zealand, Iraq, and South Africa. First choices Fernando Torres and David Villa will be a handful for the US, as they try to stop the first string Spain attack that has produced goals early and often. Torres had a hat trick in the first seventeen minutes of the opening match against New Zealand.

The Spaniards insist they are not overlooking the Americans with the record breaking 36th straight unbeaten match on the line, but it will be hard for them to avoid thinking about a possible showdown with Brazil in the final on Sunday.

Win or lose, the Americans play Sunday as well. The loser of Wednesday's match heads to a consolation game against the loser of the Brazil - South Africa semifinal to be played on Thursday. The winners will meet at Ellis Park in the final in Johannesburg Sunday evening.
Douglas Morris
Wednesday June 24, 2009 4:31 pm
Well, I am happy to say I was wrong with all my earlier comments about being unable to finish, Bradley being overmatched, and more. Bradley put a formation and a team on the pitch that came to play. They were not afraid of Spain and showed it. That being said, the ball bounced their way, and the defense was exceptional. 2-0 babee. Way to go USA.
Wednesday June 24, 2009 2:59 pm
10 minutes in... so far I'm really impressed! LOVE the look in the back 4... I think Boca is our new left back. Great Fire and effort thus far.

Wow, add Jermaine Jones in the midfield and I think we may have our 2010 lineup....
Wednesday June 24, 2009 9:02 am
Hunkering down will almost ensure a Spanish victory...

if Bocanegra is healthy, doesn't he play right back for Rennes? And doesn't Spector normally line up at left back for West Ham...time to start solidifying our World Cup back's there, why not test it. Bocanegra, Spector, Demerit and Gooch...not a bad back line in anybody's book.

Dempsey and Altidore are finding their sync up top, and if Dempsey favors Donovan's wing side, they have always clicked. It's the other three spots that are open...bradley needs to out there...can clark play a wing? with his speed he could be the new Beasley, and some day, maybe after watching 5'7" xavi command the midfield today, we will give Freddy his chance to do the same thing for us; maybe today isn't the time for that because both middies are going to have track back but he's going to have to learn to do that for the entire 90 every game anyway. If Edu were around, the wing question might be solved, but we won't know that scenario until October.

I don't care what anybody says about a flash here or there: Bornstein, Sasha, Feilharber have all shown that they are in over their heads for now on an international pitch...doesn't mean it will always be that way, but they need some seasoning in Europe.
Nelson Reese
Wednesday June 24, 2009 4:17 am
I am hoping for a 4-4-2 line up. Why not! There is nothing to lose playing the best team in the world. Why not attack and play as enterprising of football as possible. Then we actually know where we stand.

I would love to see Bocanegra at left back and Dempsey up front with Altidore. Dempsey has not been great out wide, but he sure came through as a striker.

Go Yanks!
Wednesday June 24, 2009 1:50 am
Could be a great game depending on which US team shows up.

Though as already mentioned DeMerit is likely to retain the center, I would still love to see Bocanegra on the left with Gooch and DeMerit in the middle and a healthy Cherundulo or Spector on the right. They would be tough!
mario jordan
Tuesday June 23, 2009 11:57 pm
the game agaisnt SPAIN is a hard one ,they got many weapons ,best you can do is try to control the midfield .Donovan can't do it by himself.he needs someone to connect with him midfield ,so he or his back can send balls to Altidore.cause i think BOB BRADLEY is gona have him as a lone striker.ADU ,Torres . are better suited for this game than .michael bradley or ricardo clark .but i guess BOb Bradley is gonna put the last nail in his coffin.
goof chewy
Tuesday June 23, 2009 11:01 pm
dude: As for your statement that "Since then, the game has become faster, more attacking, the skill level has shot up."

The game is as fast, attack-minded as it ever was, and the skill level is the same as it ever was. You apparently aren't familiar with football from back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's.
goof chewy
Tuesday June 23, 2009 10:57 pm
No point inserting Boca back in the starting lineup at this point; DeMerit's been more than a capable center-back replacement alongside Gooch. The wing defenders don't inspire me, though. Spector made that great cross to Dempsey, but he turned the ball over several times against Eqypt. And as for left-back? Pearce, Beasley, and Bornstein have all disappointed so far (I'll cut Beasley some slack on this point, as fullback isn't his true position anyway.)
Phil C.
Tuesday June 23, 2009 9:20 pm
Largely get the side as vs. Egypt.

Threaten the wingers with bodily harm if they don't track back.

Inject Adu and Torres if we need to inject something later.

Egads, go after them like men.
Honestly, what do you have to lose?
If you don't, you most certainly will lose.

Tuesday June 23, 2009 6:58 pm
Anyone who thinks that the US have a chance of bunkering down and getting a 0-0 result, or, miraculously, a 1-0 win don't realize what has happened since 2002, when we held tight against the world powers.

Since then, the game has become faster, more attacking, the skill level has shot up. Messi bears testament to the fact that no bunker down defense is safe anymore. Also see David Silva, Fernando Torres, Villa, and Xavi who scored on us last time.

We also don't have the personnel for such an effort. We don't have any true two-way wingers who will always come back and defend. In fact, the game has moved quickly away from such players. Theo Walcott, anyone?

Want to defend against Spain? What do you think we did against Brazil and Italy? We held back on offense, and let them come at us.

Against Spain, let us not be timid. We only beat Egypt because we had to. By three goals! To get a result against the champs, we need to score at least two. And that might mean bringing back the most effective weapon we had against Spain last year, Freddy Adu.

But, of course, Bob loves his long balls.
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