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."