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Confederations Cup Preview: USA - Spain

Who: United States vs. Spain
What: Semifinal round, Confederations Cup
When: 2:30 ET, Wednesday, June 24
Where: The Free State Stadium; Mangaung/Bloemfontein, South Africa
TV: ESPN and Univision

With a serious assist from Brazil, the United States Men's National Team pulled off the extremely improbable and made it to the semifinals of the 2009 Confederations Cup. The reward for Bob Bradley's suddenly resurgent side: a date with a Spanish side that defeated the Americans 1-0 in June, 2008. The reigning European champions have won an international record 15 straight matches and haven't lost once in its last 35 games. Then again, after the series of insane results that got the U.S. to this point, what's one more?

"Now, We're Playing With House Money"

A friend and U.S. supporter said this to me after Sunday's match: "Anything that happens now is a bonus for an American team that by all rights shouldn't be here." I'm not entirely sure I agree. Making the semifinals is a great feat, but it seems to me too many people are giving the U.S. team too much credit. The Red, White, and Blue advanced with a mere three points and a minus-two goal differential, a total that wouldn't have gotten it out of the group stage in any World Cup since the scoring system was changed. In my eyes, the "heart" the Americans showed versus Egypt was hugely helped by the fact that the Pharaohs decided not to show up.  (If we're being honest here, I was actually more impressed with the heart the U.S. showed after going down a man against Italy than with the team's effort on Sunday.) Congrats on making it this far, but let's not pretend the problems that plague the U.S. have been solved.  

The Wing's the Thing

Throughout the Confederations Cup, the U.S. flank defenders -- Jonathan Bornstein especially -- have been frequently caught too far up field and allowed counterattacks to run behind them. Central defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit have been wonderful in the air and minimized the damage, but against a team with Spain's ability to serve pinpoint crosses, the pair's aerial prowess won't matter. Bradley will likely deploy a defensive-minded team, which should keep the fullbacks from straying too far into the attack, but Bornstein and Jonathan Spector (who's been solid for three matches) will need to be especially careful to stay at home.

The Spanish Armada

It took 17 minutes for Fernando Torres to tally a hat trick against New Zealand and his team never slowed down. The squad, along with Brazil, has been the class of the tournament, showing that it is No. 1 in the world for a reason. Even without the services of spark plug Andrés Iniesta, La Roja features world-class talent at every position. Torres and David Villa will trouble the American backline all day (Will Carlos Bocanegra return if he's healthy?), while some combination of Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena, and Gerald Pique will anchor a defense that hasn't given up a goal during the tournament. That said, Spain hasn't been challenged yet -- facing the All-Whites, Iraq, and South Africa -- while the Americans came through fire, so perhaps a surprise awaits. Even the Spanish Armada was defeated eventually, right?

Projected U.S. Lineup

-----------------------Howard----------------------

Spector-----Onyewu-----DeMerit-----Pearce

Dempsey-----Bradley------Clark-----Donovan

--------------Davies-----------Altidore-----------

Projected Spain Lineup

----------------------Casillas----------------------

Sergio Ramos--Puyol--Marchena--Capdevila

Fabregas-----Xavi-----Xabi Alonso-----Riera

----------------Torres--------Villa----------------

Goal.com prediction

United States 0-3 Spain

Noah Davis covers the U.S. national team for Goal.com

For more on the Confederations Cup visit Goal.com's Confederations Cup page.