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U.S. has time to correct deficiencies

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo admitted Spain "showed us that we have some deficiencies." But those problems are unlikely to be exposed in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for a couple weeks.

With an anticipated clash with Mexico in the final of the tournament more than two weeks away, the Americans will try to learn from the 4-0 loss to Spain and get better during the group stage and early knockout rounds of the event.

The U.S. opens the tournament Tuesday against Canada and group matches against Panama on Saturday and Guadeloupe on June 14 should also produce victories. It won't be until knockout play the U.S. may again pay for those "deficiencies."

Although the quarterfinals are likely another easy step for the U.S., which is searching for its fifth Gold Cup title, World Cup qualifier Honduras will give the U.S. a big test in the semifinals - if all goes to plan for both countries.

After that, Mexico - the tournament favorite - will almost definitely await in the final. Any other scenario would be a complete surprise.

"We know it's going to be a tough tournament," U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey said, "but we want to do well and we want to win it."

Mexico humiliated the U.S. 5-0 two years ago in the final, but that tournament meant little for both sides. This time, however, a berth in the Confederations Cup in 2013 in Brazil is the prize.

The U.S. used the 2007 Gold Cup title to reach the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, a tuneup of sorts for the World Cup, to pull off one of its best results in history.

The Americans squeezed into the knockout round of the eight-team tournament, and shocked Spain, 2-0. Although the U.S. made the knockout round of the World Cup last summer, Spain won it.

"We know it's going to be a tough tournament," U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey stated.
And Saturday, Spain humbled the U.S. with the convincing win.

"When you challenge yourself against the best teams," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said, "you have to accept that this is the way it can be sometimes."

Bradley added that playing teams like Spain is the "best way to see what the game at the highest level is all about. It's the best way for us to improve.

"We know there are things that we can take from this game that will not only help us during the next three weeks."

Goalie Tim Howard believed the U.S. will bounce back from the loss.

"If we let one decision rock the whole boat, then we're not much of a team," Howard said." "It's never nice to get your butt kicked but sometimes you get up and move forward and we'll do that."

The U.S. will not face a team as good as Spain in the Gold Cup, and to be fair it did not field its best team in the friendly, but it will pay if it fails to correct the "deficiencies" that led to the lopsided loss a few days ago.

Spain exposes faults easier than most, but lapses on defense that set up easy chances left American players with their backs against the wall too often. And in the end, the four-goal loss was a generous scoreline.

So, despite all the talk of a U.S.-Mexico final June 25, Dempsey acknowledged the most important thing at this point is to just focus on Canada.

"The first game is Canada and that's what we're concentrating on right now. We need to start the Gold Cup off on a good note and win the first game," Dempsey said.

Based on the performance against Spain, Dempsey's one-game-at-a-time approach, although cliche, is the best attitude for the U.S. right now.

Although that cannot prevent the rest of us from looking forward to the match with Mexico.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Brian Westfall on Twitter and Facebook.

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