FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — United States coach Bob Bradley admits that the crowded calendar has made the task of composing his lineup against Spain (Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, ESPN) a bit more difficult.
In nearly every other situation involving a match against the World Cup holders, Bradley would field his strongest starting 11. That option, however, isn't necessarily available with the US slated to kick off their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign with a date against Canada in Detroit on Tuesday.
Bradley said he and his staff have weighed several permutations as he contemplates how to keep his players fresh with seven possible games scheduled between Saturday and June 25.
“As we've gone through all of the things, we've joked that it's a little bit like doing a Sudoku,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We keep putting things down and then we get to the end and there's two numbers in the same line, so we have to start over.”
While Bradley wouldn't delve into his exact solution, he did say that he expects to employ all six of his available substitutes against Spain. It seems likely that Bradley will offer up a mix of starters and reserves as the US attempt to combat the significant challenge Spain present while also keeping the right players fresh on the competitive match three days later.
The split mentality has also seeped into the preparation for both matches. Although the US are ready to play against Spain, they have also spent some time discussing the impending game against the Canadians, according to American defender Carlos Bocanegra.
“We have to prepare for [Spain], obviously, because they're a good team and it's a big game for us,” Bocanegra said. “We want to step on the field and do well, but, in the back of our minds, we understand that Canada is where are our focus is. We'll prepare for [Spain] a little bit, but we've been talking about Canada a little bit [as well].
“After this game, we'll really start watching film on Canada, get to know each and every one of their players and their tendencies.”
Feilhaber set to miss out on the Gold Cup
US midfielder Benny Feilhaber will almost certainly miss out on the final Gold Cup roster when it is named on Monday as he recovers from a sprained ankle suffered in New England's 1-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy last Saturday.
“[It's] incredibly disappointing for him,” Bradley said. “I thought he had settled in well with New England. I thought, in particular, that the last couple of games were very good ones for him. [It was a] fluky injury.”
Feilhaber is expected to miss the next 3-6 weeks. With a spot on the Gold Cup roster now likely out of the equation, Feilhaber must turn his focus toward rehabilitation, according to Bradley.
“He was a player that we were counting on for sure, but he is likely out,” Bradley said. “All of us are disappointed for him because he's a player that has done well for us in the past. Now it's most important for him to do the work and get back on the field.”
Bedoya puts vacation plans on hold
Feilhaber's injury prompted Bradley to draft Örebro midfielder Alejandro Bedoya into training camp earlier this week.
Normally, the call-up wouldn't have presented much of a problem with the Swedish league on summer break this weekend. Bedoya, however, booked a vacation with his girlfriend after initially missing out on the Gold Cup squad.
“We had our flights and a hotel booked to go to Barcelona, Spain for the week,” Bedoya said. “We had a vacation set already. The plan was that on Sunday, I had to play a cup game, and then we were supposed to fly out to Spain first thing on Monday morning.
“I finished my cup game and I was already packed and ready to go. Then I got the call from US Soccer saying that I had been selected and that Benny was injured.”
Bedoya quickly rearranged his scheduled sojourn, found his girlfriend a flight back to the US and traveled to Cary, N.C., to link up with his teammates. In the end, everything – except for Feilhaber's injury – worked out well.
“It's all for the better,” Bedoya said. “Obviously, I'm happy to be here, but it's unfortunate for Benny. He's a good friend of mine, but unfortunate things happen in soccer.”