7:44 AM

3 Things to Watch During USA-Spain

Well, today's the big day. Team USA will face Spain, the world's number one-ranked soccer team and the Euro 2008 champion, in the semi-finals at the Confederations Cup. I love team Spain almost as much as I love our USMNT. They play a beautiful, multi-dimensional game with varying depths in their passes dictated by obsessive ball control at midfield. Get them in their rhythm and teams are limited to playing the counter-attack, which may be the strategy that will best break their rhythm. A quick counter-strike in the first 10 minutes of the game could change everything (see Costa Rica, El Salvador and Brazil).

I hope our boys come out guns blazing. I want them to play with swagger. With arrogance. With a disciplined toughness. And most of all... I hope they play with patience and keep their cool. Breaking Spain's possession will be difficult and the last thing we need is another red card.

Here are 3 things to pay attention to today:

1. Comandante Xavi
Gotta love the diminutive Barcelonito's expertise in marshaling the offense. All plays go through Xavi, and if he plays unimpeded we're up for a long night. He led all players in passes completed during the group phase with 229, according to FIFA. I want to see Michael Bradley doing what he does best: disrupting plays and throwing a monkey wrench in the opponent's offensive machinery. Here's a great quote from Sir Alex Ferguson on Xavi and his teammate Andres Iniesta:

“I don’t think Iniesta and Xavi have ever given up the ball in their lives,” Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, said in appreciation and exasperation. “They get you on that carousel and they can leave you dizzy.”

2. Will the real Landon Donovan please stand up?
I hope the Egyptian Landon Donovan, not the Brazilian Landon Donovan, steps onto the field tomorrow. Against Egypt, Donovan was everywhere on the field. He was taking shots, jumping on chances, unselfishly dishing off to other shooters, and disrupting plays, to name a few. As a player who sometimes disappears during big games, I hope he walks out cool and comfortable. At his best, he's so much fun to watch. At his worst, he's stroke-inducing.

3. The Gooch and Jay Show
I hope our central defenders got a good night's sleep because they will be busting their asses trying to slow down Fernando Torres and David Villa. I fear Gooch will do something regretful in the box if Xavi connects his trademark through-pass to a striker, or if Ramos crosses one high near the post. He always seems to be one bad tackle away from a red card.

Well, I'll be easing off the Tweets today because a) I'll be parked in front of a flat screen at St. Stephen's Green in downtown Mountain View, and b) I don't have a smart phone. So for all those who are reading-- Go USA!!!

Some articles:
Xavi Is Spain’s Maestro of the Midfield

Spain Press Notes

U.S. team undaunted at facing Spain

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