The U.S. begins its quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup on June 15 against a team ranked 117th in the world. On Wednesday, the U.S. faces No. 4-ranked Spain (live on espn360.com at 4 p.m. ET, on delay on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m.).
A poor showing won't set off any alarm bells regarding the U.S.' qualifying chances, but an impressive performance is what it needs to repair its reputation after its poor effort last week in England. A
"It took a few days to get over that," said U.S. captain
The loss at Wembley was the first major blemish on coach
In '07, Bradley guided the U.S. to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. The three losses at the Copa América later that summer could be excused for having used a young, inexperienced squad.
Against England, Bradley had at his service his corps of foreign-based players. Instead of indicating that the U.S. national team may be on course to a higher level, the game revealed that the Americans may be stuck on a plateau.
The U.S. rules its region -- especially because most of its games against archrival Mexico are played on American soil -- but its limitations were exposed when it was outplayed by a team that couldn't qualify for the European Championship.
More worrying than the U.S.' lack of resistance against England was its inability to attack creatively. Against Spain, the Americans will again be without
In the U.S.' first three games of the year -- a 2-0 win over Sweden, a 2-2 tie with Mexico and a 3-0 win at Poland -- Donovan set up three goals and scored one. Against England, without Donovan, U.S. midfielders chased more than they orchestrated and forwards went without service.
Besides the goal scored against Mexico by
"We'll assume Spain will have a decent percentage of possession and we'll probably look to drop and counter," said Lewis.
But even that strategy requires inventiveness from the midfield and finishing from the forwards.
Up front against England were
Also under the spotlight will be central midfielder
While Spain is prepping for the European Championship, the U.S. plays one more friendly -- hosting Argentina on Sunday -- before facing Barbados in World Cup qualifying.
Facing England, Spain and Argentina puts the U.S. in fine shape for the clash with a Caribbean minnow. Putting the dour performance at Wembley behind it with something special in Spain would be even better.