Spain loss provides experience for young USMNT defenders

Eric Lichaj Spain(ISIPhotos.com)

By IAN HOLLIDAY

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A 4-0 loss is never a good result for defender, but after the USMNT's 4-0 loss to Spain at Gillette Stadium Saturday, head coach Bob Bradley said the experience of playing against the reigning World Cup champions will help two of his young defenders in the long run.

Both Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream made mistakes during Saturday's game, but they also both put in 90 minutes, and each had some moments in which he defended well. Overall, Bradley said, the game was a good learning experience for the young players.

"These are the type of lessons that we think help players," Bradley said. "These are good games for Timmy Ream … He got tested today at a different level."

Ream didn't pass all of Saturday's tests. He made an awkward challenge on Xabi Alonso that led to a Spanish scoring opportunity, and he was unable to recover after Alvaro Negredo got behind him for Spain's second goal.

But Ream also made some good decisions during the match, and Bradley praised his passing in the post-game press conference.

"You learn a lot of things: positioning, communication, continuing to get better with that," said Ream about his experience against Spain. "Obviously, you learn from the things that you didn't do so well. You go back and look at the game and you tweak a few things."

Asked if he thought he had shown enough on Saturday to earn a more playing time during the Gold Cup, Ream said he wasn't sure, but he'll keep trying to improve either way.

"It's up to Bob, if he feels that I'm ready and that I can contribute and play games, then so be it," Ream said. "If not, then I'll keep working and hopefully get in a game or two."

Saturday's match was Lichaj's first experience at left back with the national team; he had been playing the position regularly while on loan to English League Championship club Leeds United this season.

Bradley said he had watched some of Lichaj's performances at Leeds, and decided Saturday's match was a good opportunity to try the 22 year-old at left back for the national team. Asked to assess the defender's performance after the game, Bradley said he had seen "some good and some bad."

"When it comes to straight, one-on-one type duels, Eric actually stands up pretty well in those situations, but now, when things are happening faster and he's got to figure out what's in front of him and where's his line and is his position right and make those kinds of decisions, it's hard," Bradley said.

Both Ream and Lichaj are still developing as players. It's possible that neither of them will see much playing time during the Gold Cup. But getting them international experience, especially against quality opponents like Spain, strengthens the entire team in the long run, Bradley said.

"As we go through the Gold Cup now, whatever situation arises, we've been able to put players on the field and test some of the different combinations," Bradley said. "I think it just helps us down the road."

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79 Responses to Spain loss provides experience for young USMNT defenders

  1. Kevin says:

    Chandler just solidified his spot on the team.

  2. maka says:

    I don’t remember the team getting beat up on the right side. Perhaps, my memory is failing me, but I believe almost all of Spain’s goals came from the left side. If that is true, good for Lichaj.

  3. partnerincrime says:

    Experience losing, maybe.

  4. Creige says:

    If you want a defender who can play left back, defend, dribble out of pressure and pass in tight spaces then someone really needs to take a look at Zach Lloyd. Lichaj is all speed and no substance.

  5. jmac says:

    why are people getting on Ream for Negrado’s goal? Lichaj should have run with with Negardo.

  6. Jon says:

    I think I finally figured out why people hail Ream’s passing ability. Because his defending is quite poor.

  7. USMNT Fan says:

    Agreed, He made a diagonal run from Lichaj’s side that caught the defense unprepared. Even though Ream could have done better Lichaj also played a big part.

  8. Random Guy says:

    Chill. He had a weak defensive game against Spain, the world cup champions, who have reserves that could start with our team. He’s young and playing with players he hasn’t had too much experience with, of course he’s going to make mistakes. The game provided valuable experience that he can hopefully take with him in training and better preparing himself for his next matches.

  9. skeetx3 says:

    yea….but he gets beat in MLS too

  10. Andrew says:

    So basically because Ream and Lichaj weren’t perfect against Spain they can’t hack it at all on the international level, that’s the astute insights you get from the commenters here.

  11. The bums will always lose says:

    Anyone who expected that backline, especially Ream and Lihaj, to do anything other than get thrashed was way, way too optimistic.

    Ream needed that game to see exactly how far he has to go before he’s truly international quality. What we found out is that he’s always going to be calm and composed on the ball, no matter who the opponent. What we also found out is that his positioning needs help and he really needs to be focused 100% of the time, because he’s just not fast enough to make up for mental lapses. It gives him things to work on during the Gold Cup and when he’s back with NYRB. But if you can’t see the potential there, I don’t know what you’re watching.

    As far as Lihaj and LB goes, if there’s anyone in the pool outside of Boca who could’ve done better, I don’t know who it is. Whether you wanna say Bornstein, Zak Lloyd or Heath Pearce, I just don’t see how any of those guys would’ve been able to show any better than Lihaj did. People have to remember that this was Spain, and Spain’s B team is better than the best squad 95% of the teams in the world (including us) could put together. At this point, we know what Bornstein is and we know what Pearce is. I’m fine with Lihaj getting worked in a game like this, let him get his feet wet and see how he responds in the Gold Cup. At this point, I think the WORST possible thing Bob could do is bury him on the bench and give the majority of the minutes in the Gold Cup to Johnny B. Now, if Lihaj gets a few games in the opening round and can’t hang, bring on Bornstein, but like I said, we know what Bornstein is, for better or worse. I’m really anxious to see how Lihaj responds.

  12. glaing says:

    The midfield putting no pressure on the server of the ball also played a major part in the goal.

  13. Bubba says:

    Ream was exposed by Spain, but in the first half he was also greatly exposed by Onyewu. There was definitely a lack of communication and cohesion between the two and that left our defense totally exposed down the middle.
    I hope that the experience Lichaj and Ream got will pay off in the long run, because we looked terrible.

  14. john.q says:

    gotta love SBI comment section. where negativity is the norm.

    i mean, its not like Spain won the world cup, euro 2008, and a portion of that team winning the Champions League some days before this game.

  15. Phil says:

    which one, the US or German team? I think I might puke….

  16. john.q says:

    does every MLS game end 0-0? every defender gets beat on occasion. tim howard got scored on 4 times, does that mean he’s a terrible keeper?

    haters gon’ hate

  17. Jeff Awesome says:

    I feel like Goodson – Bocanegra is the best centerback combo. Lichaj should be fine at LB for the Gold Cup.

  18. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    Ouch.

  19. Crosebud says:

    I know that this is about the younger guys but I think Gooch had a pretty bad game there too. I like a lot of things about Spector but I don’t think he is the Right back answer. Honestlt the only Fullback that actually played well was Dolo. His performance was one of the only bright spots of the night.

  20. Phil says:

    Am I crazy to wonder why we haven’t tried a back 3 yet? what Goodson, Bocanegra, DeMerit and Onyewu lack in speed they make up for in positional awareness and sheer size and shot and cross blocking. Heck you could also throw Ream Edu and Spector into that rotation and send JB home.

    Playing a 3 5 2 with players like Chandler Bedoya Spector and even Cherundolo or Lichaj as wingbacks/midfielders would play toward the skill set we have in the pool. Plus, you could send Robbie Rogers home.

    check it:

    ______________Howard___________
    ___Gooch____Goodson___Boca___
    ‘dolo_________Bradley_____Spector
    _______Dempsey_______LD_______
    _________????__________????_______

    D subs: Lichaj Ream Spector Edu ‘dolo
    M subs: (DM) Jones Edu (AM) Adu, Kljestan
    S subs: heck I don’t even know who the starters should be. Agudelo was pretty lively but had zero understanding of where Altidore was…

    I’m also very curious as to why Herc Gomez was left off this roster. I know he was recently involved in a three player trade in Mexico, but he’s one of the few first-tier international league strikers we have with any kind of goal tally in as good a form as anyone else that have been called up.. Certainly better than Altidore, who is looking listless at best and disinterested at worst. Dude’s gotta break his duck in a major way.

  21. Crosebud says:

    That should read honestly

  22. Onyewu was BY FAR our weakest defender. He definitely didn’t do his job on the 3rd goal. He should have been way closer to the ball when Silva got played through. He and Ream were too far forward on the 2nd goal. As Onyewu stepped to the forward showing to the ball, Ream needed to drop deeper to provide better shape. Lichaj doesn’t need to track that, Ream needs to know the run is coming and retreat as the ball is hit long. The first goal was actually bad defending by Edu and Jones that didn’t drop back and allowed Cazorla to shoot undefended. Gooch will be fine in the 1st round of the Gold Cup, but we really need to develop a replacement.

  23. roger says:

    hahaha!! Tim Ream should have not been put in this position. He is not even one of the top defenders in the MLS.

  24. John D says:

    If he turned down the Gold Cup to keep his options open for Germany, then I never want him on the US side. I might be in the minority here, but I’d rather field a weaker national team if it meant knowing that all the players truly care about representing this great nation and aren’t merely mercenaries looking to play on the international level.

    I don’t hold it against Timmy Chandler, but if the rumors are true it is apparent his allegiance is to Germany. Call me crazy, but when I root for the national team I want to root for athletes who share the same sense of nationalism that I have.

  25. Clover362 says:

    The lesson to be learned is not whether or not Lichaj or ream will get there but that the whole back line is an open work in progress. George John for FC Dallas is currently the best centerback in MLS (better than Ream) but hasn’t gotten a look yet. He needs to be called up for the next set of friendlies.

  26. jh says:

    It is hard to gather too much insight into a game like this. However, I agree with one of the posters here, the negativity needs to be taken with a shot of reality.
    For all the bad things that happened (and there were plenty), there were some nice things learned.
    1 – This should put to rest any “Mike Bradley can’t hang with the big boys” talk. He instantly provided solid positioning, tackling, and ok distribution.
    2 – Goodson has some quality to him. He should be first off the bench for CB (ahead of Onyewu, at this point)
    3- Lichaj could be an option in a few years at LB, he just needs some time to grow, and needs better help on the back line.
    4- Agudelo is not afraid of running at anyone.
    5- Wondo was actually fairly good. His positioning was pretty good in most cases.

    However, there were negatives learned too:
    1 – Onyewu is not our best option on the back line. It should be Boca and Ream, or Boca and Goodson.
    2 – Rodgers was NOT ready for a call up.
    3 – Kljestan isn’t quite ready either, but at least he stuck his nose in the mix.

  27. David says:

    Ream’s inexperience and mistakes are something everyone should have expected. This is the first time he has ever face competition at this level. He is a player with alot of potential. He now has the tape and can start working on the problems. I was much more concerned with Oneywu. He was slow, often out of position and did not look like a leader. I don’t see him improving very much in the short term. I hope BB has the ability to move on. Central Defense improved as soon as Goodson set foot on the field.

  28. Joamiq says:

    LOL. Good one.

  29. Joamiq says:

    It’s not all about where they came from. The ball might have started out on the left, but when it came towards the middle Lichaj was totally out of position many times. He was partially at fault for some of those goals.

  30. Joamiq says:

    Agreed all around.

  31. JoeW says:

    BB gets criticism all the time for not going with younger players and trying out new guys. I think this match is a great example of how “trial by fire” aint’ always easy and you run some risks with it (and not just risks that you might lose). Let’s hope that this match was a positive learning experience for Ream and Lichaj.

  32. Joe B. NYC says:

    I agree, ream and Lichaj made Onyewu and Spector look like rooks needing experience. Ream and Lichaj shouldn’t get faulted so much for that display. What the Hell is going on with the Gooch, mane???

    Personally, if it ain’t Bradley and (yes, I’ll say it) Clark in the mid/bucket position, then Double B has to put in a real attack minded central midfielder up there and play with a diamond formation.

  33. Toumba says:

    I wont judge Ream or Lichaj in this game. Spain makes everyone look bad. They get a pass because they are new and it was like playing a combination of Barca, Real and Villareal last night. Tough task.

    I will judge Robbie Rogers who in his multiple chances with the national team has never looked like he is anything above a very low level professional player. He is not an international level player.

    It also looks to me like the ship has sailed on Gooch.

    Altidore is a mess and has been for a long time now. Time to give his minutes to someone else. Jozy needs to get his house in order if he wants to be a pro and international striker. Even I can go out there and walk around, lose the ball and not score. He should offer more than I can. I have seen him play in person for Villareal and it looked like his teammates were ignoring. Now I think I understand why.

  34. JS says:

    exactly…great post

  35. vik says:

    Agreed and agreed.

  36. Smash Famous says:

    I agree with a lot of comments on here. I believe we really have to look at our coaching staff on this one. I don’t care what they say, it’s never good to lead a lamb into the lions den just to get slaughtered. And it’s certainly not fair to the 56k+ fans that paid good money to see our national team play a competitive match.
    Why didn’t we field our best side in this match?
    Because the coaching staff agreed to schedule a game of this magnitude three days before the opening round of the GC.
    Yes granted our players learned somethings from
    this match.
    1. Our player pool is not deep enough yet to handle not having our leaders on the field.
    2. There is promise in some of our young guys, but have a long way to go. I believe we were well aware of this before this match.
    3. Our backline will consistently be a problem for us leading up to WC ’14.
    4. Edu and Jones combo does not work
    5. The coaching staff need to progress further along just like our players.
    6. Not having Dempsey, LD and MB on the pitch at all times is the death of us at this
    stage of our national team development.

    Many more to list but I believe I blabbed on too much already.

  37. Duck says:

    Agreed.
    1. USMNT is weak at left fullback in a 4-4-2
    2. Boca is a hydrid left fullback/CB
    3. US has a ton of good midfielders, a few of them are DM that can play CB

    3-5-2 should be given a shot

  38. Louis Z says:

    I’m with you. I guess is sorta like dating all the way…once you to “taste” the goods, you can’t say, well, let me think about it, either commit or move on :-)

  39. MicahK says:

    Yep, the left side of the defense if I was the Spanish coach was where I would have told my forwards to attack. Ream and Lichaj do not have experience playing against the likes of Villa, Torres, and Iniesta.

  40. MicahK says:

    Also, I could see Howards sailor mouth when he got scored on. Wow he cusses a lot when he gets scored on.

  41. Benny says:

    Argentina just lost two friendlies against Nigeria 4-1 and Poland 2-1 with their B side and their fans are not too happy. However, I do not think those results are going to affect their game in the Copa America.The U.S. lost this game with an inexperienced squad as well but to a Spain side who had several starters. When the line-up was handed out, we all knew it was going to be difficult for the U.S. The U.S. will be fine in the Gold Cup.

  42. bryan says:

    it just as much on ream as lichaj. alvaro came straight through the middle after making his diagonal run.

  43. Lil' Zeke says:

    So you don’t want to play Spain then?

  44. bryan says:

    I think if we had Chandler it would help. But Dolo and Spector cannot play those positions well. a 3-5-2 with that backline and those wingers will fail.

  45. Mike says:

    Let me be the first to say it.

    This game taught nobody anything.

    You think we learned a thing about any player? No, we did not. We continue to throw out teams of B/C players and expect to “see what they’re capable of.” Well, that isn’t how comparisons work.

    In 6 years Bradley still hasn’t figure this out. If you want to test a new player, introduce them and maybe one other player to the full starters group.

    3 starters and 8 rookies will never give you anything useable because it will just be mass chaos with everyone out of position. 8 starters and 3 rookies will start to show you what those young players are capable of. In order to gauge their true ability, you need a control group, a la stability in other positions to make the comparison.

    Just like people were talking about yesterday, it doesn’t really help anybody see what Jones and Edu are capable of together when you throw them in with C team players.

  46. nate says:

    agreed!

  47. Brian says:

    I think Gooch is done and Ream isn’t quite ready yet. Bob is looking a little stupid for not calling up Jay DeMerit, who I think is still our best CB, period.

    I say go with a backline of:

    ———-Howard———-
    Dolo–Goodson-Boca–Lichaj

  48. Brian says:

    I love Jozy and I know he was getting absolutely zero service yesterday, but the dude just looked tired. He looks burnt out, like he doesn’t even want to be out there.

    I wonder where this national team would be right now if we Confederations Cup Charlie and Gooch.

  49. Brian says:

    If you go with a center back pairing of Boca and Goodson, who is your left back then? Johnny B?

  50. Juan from L.A. says:

    Here is my take let’s not do to Lichaj and Ream what the damn French did to the first in Villa. Yes they are not ready for ELITE international level and there will be NO ONE in the GC as good as the World Champs…no one. So was this good what Robo-Bob did? No but its not his fault. The friendly itself was done in bad timing! So let’s continue molding them. I believe the hype all these three (including Agudelo) is just too much and its coming FROM THE PRESS AND FANS. So when they give subpar performance or realistic ones people are all up in pickets and stuff and that’s not right. Give them time and Robo-bob should bring them slowly.

  51. Louis Z says:

    I think you memory failed you. at least one goal started from the right side, gooch and ream backed up the right defender and didn’t even bother to look for the cut-off man coming right down the middle. did we really needed to have triple stack on the right? probably not.

  52. jh says:

    Bornstein has more recovery speed than Boca, and against some of the quicker forwards that this Gold Cup bring the US against, someone that is a little more fleet of foot like Johnny B or Lichaj could be a good option.

    I’m no Bornstein fan in general, but the guy played a good WC. Maybe he plays a good GC for us too?

  53. Henry says:

    Because Mexico’s forwards are too fast. Players like chicharito will out run circles around them.

  54. GW says:

    If you go by the Spain game Jonny Boy and Lichaj are about equal as defenders ( JB a little better) and both suck at attacking.

    Actually Lichaj looked a lot like JB at his worst last night. Just goes to show you that being a fine Right Back doesn’t alway mean you can translate it to the left side.

    Hopefully he will improve but there is absolutely no guarantee of that.

    IF BB is honest with himself his best defensive LB, right now is Boca, JB and Lichaj in that order. He has no attacking left backs.

  55. GW says:

    “This game taught nobody anything.

    You think we learned a thing about any player? No, we did not. We continue to throw out teams of B/C players and expect to “see what they’re capable of.” Well, that isn’t how comparisons work.”

    So tell me Mike, how does it work?

  56. GW says:

    Juan,

    How slowly?

    Agudelo and Ream play for RBNY and Lichaj probably will play for Leeds United; how likely is it that any of them will have a chance to play a bunch of guys as good as Spain anytime in the near future?

    The US will be focused on the Gold Cup and CONCACAF WC qualifying so it might be a while before a team like Spain gets on the schedule

  57. baller says:

    I WANT TO SEE HOLDENN!!! STOP GETTING HURT DAMNITT!!!

    My Dream:
    Agudelo-Davies(the 2009 version)
    Donovan-Bradley-Holden-Dempsey
    Chandler-Boca-Goodson-Cherundolo
    Howard

  58. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    Get your logic out of this thread.

  59. Ed says:

    Excellent post

  60. Nate says:

    That’s not fair to Tim. Two of those goals were caused by the defenders in front of him…which include Ream.

  61. Brian says:

    If you’re gonna go with the 2009 version of Davies, why not go with the 2009 version of Gooch? He was a beast in the Confederations Cup.

  62. abc says:

    Since when is Chandler a LB?

    Also agree with the 09 Gooch comment.

  63. Leo says:

    Actually, “Mike” did make his opinion known about how it’s done.

    Whether he’s correct or not is up for debate, but you being too lazy to read his full post isn’t.

  64. Stephen says:

    Well, he’s got a lot of competition on the German team at the two positions he plays…so…

  65. Stephen says:

    They got beat on the right side at least two of the goals came off of a deep run into the box from the right side and then a pass to the runner from the middle. There wasn’t much damage done from the left.

  66. Stephen says:

    Yeah. He looked good with the Nats in the game I saw, don’t remember which one…maybe South Africa?

  67. Stephen says:

    I like the 3 back idea, but that is the slowest back line we could put out and we would need quicker defenders for cover. Goodson in the middle and Boca on the left would not be too bad, but Gooch would not see the field in that formation for me.

    We did move to that formation against Slovenia in the second half to put in another attacker and looked ok…

  68. GW says:

    I read the full post. I’d just like a better explanation than that because I doubt it’s that simple.

  69. Stephen says:

    I thought Lichaj put in some decent crosses, what little chances he got…not the best but decent.

  70. Stephen says:

    Yeah, he actually didn’t explain much of anything.

  71. Stephen says:

    Yeah, we all know Holden would be starting if he wasn’t hurt. I am beginning to wonder if that will be a pattern over the course of his Nat career…but, God I hope not.

  72. Creige says:

    Paraguay. I should temper my opinion of Lichaj because he is so young. I’m just incredibly frustrated that BB has ignored some obvious talent and potential and then picks Bornstein and Rogers who have both hit their ceiling. I like BB but he may have taken us as far as he can.

  73. dhawk says:

    I think it’s time to stop ragging specifically on the defense and realize that the entire team needs to mark properly. The midfield marked horribly in the first half yesterday. We tend to play very far off of the opposition everywhere on the field and chase after whoever has the ball with multiple men. The only way to mark someone (especially a player that is gifted technically) is to be right on them, no more than an arm’s length away. You use your entire body to defend, not just your feet.

  74. ThaDeuce says:

    A few months ago i wouldn’ t have disagreed, but now i think i do. You are not crazy at all. In fact you are quite normal. But i would call you singularly minded or anti-dualist. My national team is made up of the best team of Americans. I don’t care if they are dual citizens and hypothetically chose “them” over us. If they are rejected, that is our good fortune. If they don’t give one hundred percent, Bob won’t play ‘em. But I’ll still cheer for the USA as loudly as possible. That doesn’t mean carte blanche on performance critiques, though.

  75. JimmyJoe says:

    64,000 plus paid a LOT of money to watch basically a ‘B’ team scrimmage. If the US is not going to field it’s best team in a game like this then they should say so up front and I would have stayed home and not wasted my money.

    Saving it for the Gold Cup? then don’t schedule Spain at a time we don’t intend to compete. I was embarrassed, disappointed and angry at what I saw. I’m now concerned about our status for the Gold Cup. With Mexico and Costa Rica’s big results, and us getting beat like a circus monkey… I question if Bradley can turn us around quickly. When you get beat like that… it does a job on the whole team and Bradley is KNOWN for putting teams on the field that are not ready to play.

  76. JeffM in CHI says:

    Stu Holden doesn’t get hurt. Sadly, he gets HACKED!

    But, yes, no Stu in the 11 or off the bench is big, big loss.

  77. Stephen says:

    I meant Lloyd. Pretty sure he didn’t play against Paraguay.

  78. Stephen says:

    I don’t care what anyone says, that was not Spain’s B-team. They had 6 or 7 of their starting WC 11.