FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Scheduling a match against Spain on the eve of the CONCACAF Gold Cup comes with a few inherent risks.
Most of those fears came to pass as Spain glided to a 4-0 victory over a makeshift US side on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
With the US set to return to the field to face Canada in the Gold Cup group play opener on Tuesday, the Americans cannot afford to allow the result of this match to impact their preparations for that encounter.
US coach Bob Bradley said the positives of playing against the best side in the world outweighed the potential negatives of the outcome.
“When you challenge yourself against the best teams, you have to accept that this is the way it can be sometimes,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com. “You hope your players can still deal with it on the field. If we didn't think we could handle it, we wouldn't play these games.”
In order to turn this defeat into a meaningful experience, the US must heed the lessons conveyed by Spain's performance and shrug off the impact of a result that carries no long-term impact.
“You take it with a grain of salt,” US and New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream said. “It's a friendly. They're the best team in the world. You go back, you analyze certain plays and certain movements. You take the good with the bad and you roll with it. You can't dwell on it too much, especially being a young guy. If you dwell on it, it will carry onto the next game. We can't let that happen, especially with another game coming up in three days.”
US goalkeeper Tim Howard said he and his teammates will make sure that they do not permit this high-profile friendly defeat to impact their mentality ahead of the date with Canada on Tuesday.
“It's going to sting tonight,” Howard said. “We're probably going to get on the plane and probably be a little upset, but, by the time tomorrow comes and we train, we'll get it out of our system and prepare for Canada.”
Illness keeps Donovan out of the lineup
Bradley omitted influential US midfielder Landon Donovan from the squad after he came down with an illness on Friday night.
Although Bradley decided to keep Donovan out of this match, he hopes that he will feature on Tuesday against Canada.
“He started showing signs (of illness) late yesterday,” Bradley said. “Today, (he felt) just a little bit weak and that kind of thing. Hopefully, this is just a 24-hour kind of thing and he'll be ready.”
Another important lesson for Ream
Bradley highlighted Ream as one player who stood to benefit significantly from playing against Spain. Ream started and played 90 minutes to earn his fourth cap under trying circumstances.
“These are good games for Timmy Ream when you play against the top teams because they are so creative and so mobile,” Bradley said. “What they do, if you're a center back, is that they play in the little spaces in front of you and they're able to find ways to get behind you. I still see positives in it.”
Ream agreed that the match provided an important measuring stick for him as he continues his transition from MLS standout to international regular.
“It's the best team in the world,” Ream said. “It's going to be a good test for anybody. Being one of the newer guys here and playing against a team like that to see where you stack up, it can be good and bad. I'm the type of guy that will take the good from the bad. I'll learn more from a game like this than if we would have won on two counterattack goals. You roll with it. You learn from your mistakes. You fix your positioning. You go into the next game with a new mindset.”