LONDON -- From the beginning, it was a huge task for the U.S. team. Playing in front of 70,000-plus at Wembley against an England lineup that included seven of the 22 starters from last week's Champions League final, and doing it without injured Landon Donovan? The 2-0 result seemed a predictable outcome from the start.
Still, the American players emerged from their plush dressing rooms at the gorgeous new incarnation of the historic stadium looking as though they'd just dropped a vital World Cup qualifier to Barbados, at home.
"I just think we gave them too much respect," said midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, easily the most experienced player in Bob Bradley's starting 11.
"Saying that, they are a great team. We didn't impose ourselves on them. We know our final goal is to qualify [for the World Cup]. But at the same time we don't like to lose. We're Americans, it doesn't matter if we're playing England, Brazil, or France, we want to win. But [today's] performance let us down a little bit."
The English players certainly came out expecting more resistance from their opponents. Coach Fabio Capello had prepared his charges by showing them a tape of the Yanks' last outing against a European team, a memorable 3-0 win in March against Poland, a team that sailed into this summer's European Championship.
Of course, the English players and their fans are still smarting from their failure to qualify for Euro2008, and they had a point to prove in Capello's second home match since replacing disgraced Steve McClaren after last fall's monumental disappointment. And in the end, the scoreline might have flattered the visitors.
"I thought we could have scored more goals," said England and Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves who, along with teammates Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Wayne Rooney, lifted the European Cup seven nights ago in Moscow.
"They looked very good on the tape we watched. The boss said they had won their last three games and scored seven goals. They're a counterattack team. They won at Poland 3-nil, so we were expecting a tough game."
They didn't get one. The Yanks sorely missed the attacking moxie of Donovan, who had been hoping to earn his 100th cap in the match against Los Angeles Galaxy teammate David Beckham.
"It would have been nice," admitted Donovan, who sat out with a pulled groin. "But I was more disappointed with the result."
Meanwhile, Beckham was a beast in the first half before being pulled at the intermission. England's former captain set up the opener, a pinpoint free kick from the left side that found the head of new skipper John Terry, and was also dangerous on several other occasions.
The second half deteriorated as both sides made a slew of substitutions, but, other than an early left-footed shot by Eddie Johnson that missed its target, the Americans never looked as if they'd ruin David James' clean sheet, let alone earn a result. It was just a rough night for the Yanks, although they will have a chance to redeem themselves with a better showing against another top-end Euro squad when they play in Spain on June 4.
"In training this week, we felt confident," Johnson said. "We've come off some good results [recently], but playing in the big stadiums against the great teams in Europe is tough. But it's a great learning experience for us."
Doug McIntyre is a soccer columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPNsoccernet.