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Mediocre US side disappoints at Wembley

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This article refers to a previous USA-England matchup. Follow the latest England v USA match here.

One word can describe the United States Men’s National Team’s effort tonight against England: disappointing. The hype that this match has been getting was grossly undermined by a lackluster performance on the pitch by the players in anthracite (that’s the official name of the color) kits.

Earlier this week, Bob Bradley stated that this match was “an opportunity to gain respect and we refer to the idea that we play when there are European fixtures and we are part of the card and it is a chance for our players to step up and show where we are. We take them very seriously.”

And the US cannot be blamed for a lack of effort. The intensity was there, but with a squad made up chiefly of inexperienced national team players, the result was always going to be difficult to get. I predicted earlier that a big loss might be the result (for the record, I also predicted that Donovan would not start), and unfortunately, I was right.

There are two reasons for this loss that stand out glaringly head and shoulders above the rest. In hindsight, these reasons can also be attributed to many of the losses the US has suffered against good opposition in the past couple of years (World Cup 2006 and Copa America specifically).

Lack of experience

Looking at the starting eleven for each side, England had seven players that played in the Champions League Final in Moscow and one in the FA Cup Final. The US had one player who played in a cup final in Europe this season, and that same player (DaMarcus Beasley) is just coming off of a serious knee injury.

Club and international football are two different things, but experience in big matches with clubs will lead to a confidence and feeling of belonging when players are called up to the national team.

Lack of composure

Not to say that the US was mentally out of the match. They did not succumb to the mental pressure that plagues any team playing at Wembley, but they did submit to physical pressure from the English side.

Fabio Capello said before the match that he was trying to instill a “winning mentality” and “more intensity, more pace, more speed, more pressing, and more going forward”, with an emphasis on pressing. They did press, taking the game to the US early, and it worked.

Every time a player in the back or in midfield (even in the attacking third at times) was put under a lot of pressure, they either tried to dribble the ball out of trouble or employ a favorite tactic of American teams from the grassroots level up to the national team, which is to hit a long ball and hope that something good happens. I call this “the hit and hope method”.

All the credit should go to the English team, who took advantage of set pieces, and an inexperienced second half goalkeeper in Brad Guzan to score two nice goals. First, a Beckham free kick that led to John Terry’s header, which he credited to Capello giving him the armband, and along with it “a massive boost”, followed by Steven Gerrard’s far post finish in the second half.

Looking forward

The US will have a chance to redeem themselves in Santander against Spain next Wednesday. Spain is a very talented and dangerous team, ranked fourth in the World (as of today) looking to prepare for success this summer in the European Championships, although they always tend to disappoint in big competitions, never getting the final result they are capable of.

Their squad is a formidable one also. I will let the names do the talking:
GOALKEEPERS: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF), José Manuel Reina (Liverpool FC), Andrés Palop (Sevilla FC).
DEFENDERS: Carlos Marchena (Valencia FC), Raúl Albiol (Valencia FC), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF), Carles Puyol (FC Barcelona), Álvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool FC), Fernando Navarro (RCD Mallorca), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal CF), Juanito (Real Betis).
MIDFIELDERS: Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool FC), Cesc Fábregas (Ársenal), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona), David Silva (Valencia FC), Marcos Senna (Villarreal CF), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal CF), Rubén de la Red (Getafe CF).
FORWARDS: Fernando Torres (Liverpool FC), David Villa (Valencia CF), Dani Güiza (RCD Mallorca), Sergio García (Real Zaragoza).

The US has played Spain twice, losing both times.

In all honesty, things do not look good for the US, considering that their competition only gets tougher in their next two matches. However, just like any other experience in football, these matches can be learned from and it will help the team to move onto bigger things.

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