FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — US national team coach Bob Bradley knew Spain would provide a particularly stern test for his side in these less-than-ideal — or, really, any other — set of circumstances.
Even though the World Cup holders romped to a 4-0 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Bradley said the match provided a worthwhile exercise for his team as it prepares to face Canada in its first CONCACAF Gold Cup match on June 7.
“Spain is a great team,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It's a tough to play them any time, but it's probably an even tougher test on the eve of the Gold Cup. We've chosen always to take these challenges and play the best teams because we feel it's the best way for us to see what the game at the highest level is all about and the best way for us is to improve.”
Bradley named a mixture of starters and reserves to tackle that challenge with one eye on the date against Canada in Detroit next Tuesday. The absences of first-team fixtures Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan (omitted from the squad entirely due to illness) and Clint Dempsey hampered the US efforts in the opening half as Spain ran riot to build a three-goal lead by halftime.
“The trick on a day like today is trying to figure out who are the guys who can potentially go 90 minutes,” Bob Bradley said. “You need to have enough of them on the field so you have some options, and then you feel like you've got everybody ready to go. We've done it different ways, but, today, we thought it was probably the best way.”
Michael Bradley and Dempsey entered the match at halftime as the US made five changes to keep their squad fresh. Although the Americans improved a bit after the break, Spain continued to control the proceedings and supplemented their first half with a fourth goal through Fernando Torres in the 73rd minute.
While the US fielded an experimental starting XI, that fact did not necessarily blunt the immediate disappointment of falling to such a heavy defeat.
“It hurts to lose,” US defender Steve Cherundolo said. “We're professionals, so every game you lose, it hurts. But you can learn from it. It showed how much better we need to be technically under pressure, not only for this generation, but for US soccer moving forward.”
US and San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski said he and his teammates will carry some of the lessons from this Spanish clinic with them as they prepare for an altogether different test against the Canadians on Tuesday.
“We can take a lot,” Wondolowski said. “It's going to leave a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth. We have to come out ready and fighting for every game. We'll be ready for Canada on Tuesday.”