A day after being routed by the World Cup champions, Clint Dempsey and the Americans were eager for another challenge.
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They won’t have to wait long.
The United States plays its Gold Cup opener Tuesday night against Canada, meaning the Americans will have an immediate chance to move on from Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Spain in an exhibition game. The U.S. looked overmatched from the start against the smooth-passing Spaniards, who won the World Cup last year and the European title two years before that.
”It’s a little kick up the backside,” Dempsey said. ”Even though it was a friendly, you never want to lose a game, especially by four goals. Everybody’s going to be fired up for this first game and making sure we take care of business.”
The Gold Cup is the premier event for CONCACAF, the federation representing North and Central America and the Caribbean. The tournament champion earns a spot in the Confederations Cup, an important World Cup tuneup.
The U.S. opens against Canada at Detroit’s Ford Field, and the Americans are expected to have Landon Donovan back for that game. Donovan was on the practice field Sunday after missing the loss to Spain with an undisclosed illness.
”I’m feeling better,” Donovan said. ”I haven’t properly trained in a few days, so today was a little more difficult than a normal training session. I was breathing pretty hard, but I feel good, and I would expect I’ll be fine by Tuesday.”
Neither the Americans nor the Spaniards were at full strength when they played Saturday in Foxborough, Mass. Dempsey, for example, entered only as a second-half substitute for coach Bob Bradley.
”It was a game for Bob to look at a number of different players,” Dempsey said. ”I don’t think at one time we had our strongest 11 on the field.”
Still, the loss was a resounding one. It was the first time the U.S. had allowed three or more goals in the first half since a 4-1 loss to Denmark at the Rose Bowl in 1997.
It could have been even worse, but Spain had an early goal disallowed for offside, then hit the crossbar moments later.
”They have that potential against any team in the world, so it’s difficult to limit their chances,” Donovan said. ”We certainly learned from it. We’ll watch tape a little bit and learn from it, but the reality is, that’s done now. We’ve got to get what we can out of the learning experience, but I promise you Canada doesn’t care what happened against Spain.”
The U.S. last won the Gold Cup in 2007, earning a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the Americans stunned Spain before nearly upsetting Brazil in the final.
In the 2009 Gold Cup, with far less at stake, the U.S. fielded an inexperienced team and lost 5-0 to Mexico in the final.
The U.S. has never lost a group stage game in Gold Cup play. After taking on Canada, the Americans head to Tampa, Fla., to face Panama on Saturday night, then play Guadeloupe on June 14. The top two teams in the group automatically advance to the quarterfinals.
”What we always do is try to take a little bit from the last game, but then quickly turn our attention to what comes next,” Bradley said. ”In this case, we’ve all been looking forward to getting started in the Gold Cup.”