(Wednesday, June 4, 2008) -- The United States men dropped a 1-0 decision to Spain last night in a match that was not as close as the final score might indicate. Warming up for the start of Euro 2008 next week, Spain possessed the ball for long stretches, but created relatively few chances to a continuous chorus of derisive whistles from the sparse crowd of 13,500 of home fans at the Estadio El Sardinero in Santander.
The U.S. did better then in a 2-0 setback to England last week at Wembley Stadium in London. Against Spain, the Americans had one potential goal called back for an obvious offside and created a couple of good chances though poor finishing eliminated those opportunities.
Freddy Adu received the start he had waited for on the front line and invigorated the U.S. attack in the first half. Not intimidated at all by the big-name Spanish defense, he pushed the ball forward, took on defenders, and was a continual problem for Spain.
Eddie Johnson ran well off Adu up top and showed much better then he did against England, but he was undone by poor finishing. In the 49th minute, midfielder Eddie Lewis sent a perfect cross from the left flank to Johnson unmarked in front of the goal, but he sent his header wide of the right post.
Except for the breakdown in the 79th minute when Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez was able to control the ball, turn away from American defender Oguchi Onyewu and beat stranded goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the U.S. defense played well. At times, especially in the first half, the U.S. had as many as 10 men behind the ball. While the defense was a bit disorganized and ragged, it was sufficiently effective.
The Americans allowed Spain to possess the ball for long periods and, at times, the game looked like a Spanish passing drill though the hosts were really unable to create many quality chances.
"In certain areas, I think there was improvement (from the match against England)," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "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."
U.S. player ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5.5: A solid performance. Made one difficult save and took care of everything else routinely, but he was not put under much pressure.
Defender Heath Pearce - 5.5: Was forced to do a lot both in defending against a sustained Spanish attack down his left wing and covering for central defenders who got pulled out of position.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6: Was solid in the air and roamed wide in the middle in a very effective appearance.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 5.5: Played a solid match, but lost Hernandez on the goal. Lack of speed and quickness remain an issue.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5.5: Held his own against a speedy attack down his flank. His experience and understanding of the game showed.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 5.5: Was a more solid member of the defensive midfield. Covered well when Michael Bradley went forward, but needs more experience against top-level opposition and needs to make decisions and play faster.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5: Was good at times, but did not provide a sustained effort over 90 minutes. His best moments came in the offensive end, while he did not show much ability to hold the ball in the midfield. Also needs to get his temper in check or it could hurt in the future.
Midfielder Eddie Lewis - 6.5: His experience of a career playing against top-flight opposition was valuable to him. He had the run of his left flank, sending in dangerous crosses and defending well. Demonstrated he belongs in the starting side.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 4: Early, he successfully challenged goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but a foul was called. After that, he essentially disappeared and looked like a tired player after his long English season at Fulham.
Forward Freddy Adu - 6: Certainly his best showing for the U.S. men against a top opponent. He showed his game is maturing as he held the ball, took on defenders and created chances. Needs more playing time.
Forward Eddie Johnson - 5: In a word: better. Created some chances, but could not finish, including an near sitter early in the second half. Still plays timidly, pulling up rather than attacking the final defender.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan (46th minute for Howard) - 5.5: Could not stop Hernandez, but otherwise had a good 45 minutes and made several good saves. After playing against England, he flew to New York to join Chivas USA for a Major League Soccer game and then back to Spain. That had to take something out of him.
Defender Frankie Hejduk (46th minute for Cherundolo) - 5.5: Another sold half played. Continues to show he has the pace and certainly the experience to play at this level. At times, he tries to do too much as if he is facing an MLS squad, not one of the world top five national teams.
Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (46th minute for Adu) 5: Only played a half, but was less effective then he had been against England. Still not nearly match fit after missing months for his knee injury. Would help if he can play on the right side, but when he tried it here, he seemed to have difficulty.
Forward Josh Wolff (70th minute for Lewis) - 4: He had no impact on the match whatsoever.
Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni (86th minute for Edu) - no rating: Made the long trip from Colorado, so he got a few minutes of playing time.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Eddie Lewis.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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