SANTANDER, Spain (June 4, 2008) – The U.S. Men’s National Team fought fourth-ranked Spain toe-to-toe for more than an hour before an opportunistic goal by Xavi Hernandez in the 79th minute delivered Spain a 1-0 victory before 13,500 fans at the Estadio El Sardinero in Santander. Eddie Johnson had one goal called back and barely missed a second as Spain extended its unbeaten run to 17 matches and improved its record against the United States to 3-0-0 all-time.
Kicking off at 10 p.m. local time, the U.S. played much better than they did a week ago against England, creating a handful of chances during a fairly even affair with the fourth-ranked team in the world. Despite not finding the back of the net, forwards Freddy Adu and Johnson created chances around goal, and the U.S. defense did well to contain a dangerous Spanish attack. But as the game wore on, Spain began to pull away, hitting the woodwork twice before Xavi slalomed through four U.S. defenders and slipped the ball past Brad Guzan in the 79th minute.
The U.S. will have a short turnaround as they next face No. 1-ranked Argentina on June 8 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the team’s final match before beginning their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. The team will leave Spain just hours after tonight’s match and arrive into New Jersey on Thursday afternoon, providing them with two days of training to prepare for the South American giants. More than 63,000 tickets have been sold for the match, which will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and Galavision at 7:30 p.m. ET, and fans can also follow live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
"In certain areas, I think there was improvement (from the match against England)," said U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley. "In the first half, I certainly felt that we passed the ball better. In the second half, we had a very good chance early on but we lost a little bit of energy and Spain was able to capitalize." (Post-game audio)
"I thought we stopped moving to support each other when we had the ball. [Cesc] Fabregas and Xavi started moving very well to find little gaps in our midfield. At that point, Spain was able to take advantage. They're a very good passing team."
The U.S. began the match with a renewed spirit and determination, staying compact and organized while constantly shutting down the Spanish passing lanes. The duo of Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu kept Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabrergas in check, while centerbacks Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu limited the chances for the Liverpool’s dangerous frontman, Fernando Torres.
While Spain looked for cracks in the U.S. defense, it was Johnson who nearly opened the scoring in the 30th minute. After winning the ball in midfield, Adu appeared to have sprung Johnson over the top of the Spanish defense and in alone on goalkeeper Iker Casillas. While Johnson slotted the ball past the charging ‘keeper, the play was whistled dead with the assistant referree’s flag raised for offside.
Adu and Johnson connected again nine minutes later when Adu lofted a long ball over the Spain defense from the U.S. half, leading his forward partner. Johnson showed his speed and strength as he raced from the midfield stripe on the right flank to beat Puyol to the ball at the 18-yard box and then held the Spanish defender off to rip a shot towards the near post, but Casillas was there to make the save with his knees.
The U.S. made three changes to start the second half, once again inserting Brad Guzan for Tim Howard and Frankie Hejduk for Steve Cherundolo. DaMarcus Beasley made his second appearances in as many matches, replacing Adu and pushing Clint Dempsey into the center of the 4-2-3-1 formation. Spain also made a handful of changes in the second half, and almost immediately Ruben De La Red and then Xavi began to find space between the USA’s central midfield and backline to orchestrate attacks.
Nonetheless, it was Johnson who once again almost broke the deadlock in the 49th minute. Eddie Lewis received the ball wide and drove down the left flank, delivering a cross reminiscent of his pass to Landon Donovan to set up the USA’s second goal in the Round of 16 victory against Mexico in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Johnson had done well to position himself ahead of his mark, but his glancing header skimmed agonizingly wide of the right post.
As the half wore on, Spain began to show why they’ve been chosen as a favorite to win the 2008 European Championships, which kick off this weekend. They nearly grabbed the lead in the 62nd minute when a well taken free kick from Xavi clanged off the crossbar. Five minutes later, Guzan came up big against Marcos Senna, stifling a close-range shot from the midfielder who had been played through one v. one in the right side of the penalty area.
Spain managed to break through in the 79th minute on a crafty run by Xavi. Collecting the ball near the top of the area, he cleverly shaped up to pass to a rushing striker, but quickly turned towards goal and split Onyewu and Bocanegra. With Hejduk closing, Xavi held off the challenge and beat Guzan to the lower left corner.
Down a goal, the U.S. picked up the pace and continued to push for an equalizer until the final whistle. They created two chances in added time, starting with a header from Bradley off a cross from Hejduk that didn’t find the mark. Johnson made a last-minute foray into the box, unleashing a tight-angle shot that was well handled by Casillas.
After the Argentina match, the U.S. opens qualifying play for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in a Second Round series with Barbados that begins Sunday, June 15, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Kickoff for the first leg of the series is set for 2 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. The second leg will be played on June 22 in Barbados, with details still to be finalized. Barbados will warm up with two friendlies on June 6 and June 9 away to Bermuda. Their hosts have also earned their way into the second round of qualifying where they will take on Trinidad & Tobago.
-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --
Match-up: USA vs. Spain
Date: June 4, 2008
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Estadio El Sardinero – Santander, Spain
Kickoff: 10 p.m. local time
Weather: 59 degrees, light rain
1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
ESP 0 1 1
ESP – 8-Xavi Hernandez (10-Cesc Fabregas) 79th minute.
USA: 1-Tim Howard (18-Brad Guzan, 46); 6-Steve Cherundolo (5-Frankie Hejduk, 46), 22-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (Capt.), 12-Heath Pearce; 8-Clint Dempsey (25-Pablo Mastroeni, 86), 26-Maurice Edu, 4-Michael Bradley, 11-Eddie Lewis (16-Josh Wolff, 70); 9-Eddie Johnson, 19-Freddy Adu (7-DaMarcus Beasley, 46)
Subs not used:, 2-Dan Califf, 23-Jay DeMerit
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
ESP: 1-Iker Casillas (capt.); 11-Joan Capdevila (3-Fernando Navarro, 53), 4-Carlos Marchena, 5-Carlos Puyol, 15-Sergio Ramos; 12-Santi Cazorla, 8-Xavi Hernandez, 14-Xabi Alonso (19-Marcos Senna, 46), 21-David Silva (22-Ruben De La Red, 58); 9-Fernando Torres (17-Daniel Güiza, 46), 10-Cesc Fabregas (18-Álvaro Arbeloa, 84)
Subs not used: 23-Pepe Reina, 13-Andrés Palop; 2-Raúl Albiol, , 7-David Villa, 16-Sergio Garcia, , 20-Juanito
Head Coach: Luis Aragones
Stats Summary: USA / ESP
Shots 8 / 15
Saves 6 / 2
Corner Kicks 3 / 7
Fouls 15 / 8
Offside 2 / 1
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 77th minute.
Referee: Sokol Jareci (ALB)
First Asst.: Egin Doda (ALB)
Second Asst.: Emilian Bicaku (ALB)
Fourth Official: Alfonso Burrull (ESP)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Oguchi Onyewu