US-Spain preview – Which players need to perform?
4p ET/1p PT
Internet: Espn360.com (live)
Text updates at MatchTracker (live)
TV: ESPN2 (5:30p ET)
Can the US redeem themselves tonight? That is the question. After the washout at Wembley, the US men are in desperate need of a good showing. That doesn't mean they need to walk out of Estadio El Sardinero with a win, but it does mean they need to look like they could win.
Against England, the side, to put it kindly, had trouble possessing the ball, thus giving the three lions plenty of time to do what they wanted to do. The bad news for the red, white and blue, Spain is even better at the possession game then England.
If the US is to contain forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa, they will need to do a lot better in the midfield, but that means besting the likes of Andres Iniesta , Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Not an easy task.
So how can the US do it? First they must realize that they will only get a handful of chances in the game and second they must do something with those chances (amazing idea, right). Also, they need to use the Spanish desire to play beautiful soccer against them. If they can push the game and make it as physical as possible, Spain will have to change their tactics.
But the biggest thing that needs to happen for America is an awakening of the forwards. The US has scored 7 goals in 2008, but only one has been by a forward, while defenders have netted four. No striker threat means defenders can push up and take a bigger role in the attack.
The forwards are not the only folks to blame in this as the midfield hasn't been the best at providing chances, so a key to the situation up top will probably have to be found in the middle.
With that in mind, here is my take on who needs to perform:
Dominic Cervi (GK) - He is very unlikely to see a minute of playing time, but if he does, he needs to show what he can do.
Dan Califf (D) - He has looked great in Denmark and might just find an opening if others don't play well.
Heath Pearce (D) - After a good game against England, another solid outing against Spain could make him America's number one on in left back.
Jay DeMerit (D) - Is he finally going to get his chance after the injury spell to show he should still be part of the US strategy? If so, he needs to make something of it.
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - Off his mark and rusty. With other central backs starting to push for his spot, he needs to rebound.
Freddy Adu (M) - He looked alright against England, but how much was that due to being a late sub. The US needs some creativity in the middle. If he can combine that with good ball control and service to the forwards, he might just get some starts.
Maurice Edu (M) - At some point Edu will be part of the US senior plans and today might just make that day come sooner then expected.
Eddie Lewis (M) - Gave some late lift to the US in England and was able to actually hold the ball. If the US starts to sink, Lewis could show his value by doing the same in Spain.
Pablo Mastroeni (M) - Mastroeni has a chance to get back in the US good graces. If he can be an enforcer without giving up cheap fouls or getting cards, he might just become Bradley's go to defensive mid.
Nate Jaqua (F) - With the forward spots wide open, Jaqua could get a bunch more looks if he has a good night. Hopefully he'll get more then three minutes to display his skill.
Eddie Johnson (F) - Actually showed a little against England, but it was not enough to wash away the last three years of bad. Needs to use his speed to keep Spain's backline in retreat.
Josh Wolff (F) - If he doesn't give something big, there really isn't a reason to keep calling him back.
Brad Guzan (GK) - Has the number two spot pretty much locked up, but needs another good 45' to completely put his bad MLS start to rest.
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - He has regained his form but with the onslaught that he will probably face tonight, he needs to keep it up under pressure. Also, needs to prove that he can best players faster then himself.
Steve Cherundolo (D) - Got to keep his marks tonight. The right back is still his to loose.
Frankie Hejduk (D) - He is still a long, long, long shot for 2010, but his experience combined with his decent play a week ago might just get him some more calls.
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - Still not over the injury, so he needs to display a good form and an outside option to feed the forwards.
Michael Bradley (M) - Did nothing to help with the attack in England, that obviously needs to change. The team needs a leader in the midfield but will Michael take this chance to be that leader?
Clint Dempsey (F) - Time for the deuce to step it up. He's obviously tired from the long EPL season, but his lack of creativity for the US team is starting to hurt. He's not losing his spot, but he needs to show why he earned it in the first place.
Tim Howard (GK) - The only player that has no big worries. He is the number one for club and country. If he plays even an average game, it will be good.
The other person under a lot of pressure tonight is coach Bob Bradley. Last week's dump in England can be excused in part due to the late scratch of Donovan. However, with a week to prepare for this one, Bradley needs to show he can make the changes in his lineup and strategy to assure a good 90 minutes by his side.
My thought is Spain will win this one, but the US should be able to hold their own. To do so, they need to show that they can learn and adapt. Spain presents their hardest challenge so far in 2008, but this team is good enough to make it competitive. Anything less then a quality match, especially after last week, will put a very gray cloud over US soccer.