Dynamic U.S. Side Defeats Turkey, 2-1, Shows Promise
Playing in front of a raucouscrowd at Red Bull Arena, the U.S. national team showed its potential, and a few glaring weaknesses, in an entertaining Send-Off Series mach against Turkey.
HARRISON, New Jersey—
June 01, 2014
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The United States men's soccer team's thrilling—and occasionally chippy—2-0 victory over Turkey at Red Bull Arena confirmed a number of things we already knew about the squad.
The 4-4-2 formation gives the team its best chance of scoring.
Michael Bradley is a fantastic soccer player.
Clint Dempsey is an opportunistic striker.
And the American defense is still a work in progress.
Unlike Tuesday's friendly against Azerbaijan in San Francisco, this match felt like a true World Cup warmup. Turkey provided the Americans with a worthy foe, the tackles came flying in from all over the place, and both teams played a high-tempo game.
In other words, it was just what the Americans needed. And, it has to be said, the team handled the pressure reasonably well.
For the third consecutive game U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent his players onto the field in a 4-4-2 formation featuring a diamond midfield. Michael Bradley lined up in the No. 10 position at the forward point of the midfield, with Jermaine Jones playing the rear guard, or No. 6 position. Graham Zusi reprised his role on the right wing while Brad Davis—who helped create both goals against Azerbaijan— replaced Alejandro Bedoya on the left.
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United States captain Clint Dempsey, who was left out of the Azerbaijan match with a groin injury, started at forward alongside Jozy Altidore, who has struggled for both club and country over the last six months.
Less than a minute into the competition Altidore was dispossessed with his first touch, prompting groans from the crowd. He would go on to have a solid showing, but the New Jersey native could not manage to take advantage of his many opportunities. That said, there is little doubt that Altidore is Klinsmann's preferred striker; he played all 90 minutes and Aron Johannsson did not come off the bench.
The U.S. dictated the play early on with good one-touch passing and high-pressure defense that created numerous turnovers. At times it relied too heavily on long, direct passes that made it seem like it was 2006 all over again, but tenacious defending created more than a few promising sequences from the Americans.In the seventh minute, Zusi delivered a beautifully weighted pass down the center of the field to a charging Dempsey, but the Seattle Sounder striker pushed the ball too far to his right and the chance evaporated.
Five minutes after that Turkey nearly scored when the U.S. got caught trying to break out onto a corner. Brad Davis' headed pass to Fabian Johnson was intercepted and Turkey put together some nifty one-touch passes that led to a close-range shot that flew just wide of the upright.
It looked as though the U.S. took the lead in the 15th minute when Zusi delivered a beautiful corner kick into the heart of Turkey's six-yard box. The ball ricocheted off a head or two before Altidore slammed it into the back of the net. The jubilant American supporters grew silent quickly when the referee disallowed the goal, alleging pushing in the box.
Worryingly for Klinsmann, Turkey pushed the U.S. defense throughout the first half. The typically solid Matt Besler looked shaky at times, and Geoff Cameron was forced into some desperate defending. Timothy Chandler, a right back being asked to play on the left for the U.S., was caught out of position multiple times and had a real clunker.
Despite the defense's uneven showing, and some apparent communication issues across the backline, Turkey failed to put away any of its early chances.
In the 21st minute, Bradley gave the ball away near the center circle but then fought like a dervish to regain possession. When he succeeded in doing so the U.S. found itself with a three-on-two attack, but Bradley's pass to Altidore on the was a bit too heavy, and Turkey cleared the ball away.
Five minutes later, the Americans took the lead thanks to a clever run from Fabian Johnson, a ridiculous lofted pass from Bradley, and a laser beam of a left-footed shot from Johnson that demonstrated world class technique. It was a dynamite combination play that showcased vision and skill, and it ignited the crowd.
Klinsmann made three changes at the 45-minute mark, bringing in Brad Guzan in place of Howard, Kyle Beckerman for Jones, and John Brooks for Besler. None of those substitutes played a role in the Yanks' second goal, however, which came gift-wrapped by a hapless Turkey defense. In the 52nd minute, Chandler sent in a hopeful cross that somehow bounced past two Turkish defenders and goalkeeper Onur Recep Kivrak only to land at Dempsey's feet at the far post. The Texan tapped in for an easy goal and a 2-0 U.S. lead.
The tempo of the game slowed perceptibly at that point, as both coaches started subbing in players. Altidore, who desperately needs a goal before the team travels to South America, came close to scoring on multiple occasions, but always seemed to be a step too slow, or just offside, or guilty of an infraction at the wrong moment. Though sharp at times, Altidore's frustration level is approaching a boiling point.
Chandler, meanwhile, struggled throughout the contest. It was his giveaway in the 89th minute that created Turkey's only goal. With the U.S. comfortably ahead Chandler lost the ball to Mustafa Pektemek on the right flank, creating a great scoring opportunity. His shot beat Guzan but Cameron stopped it with a hand ball. Turkey converted on the penalty kick in the 90th minute.
Seljuk Inan converted the spot kick, bringing Turkey to within one goal of the U.S. Neither team managed another meaningful chance in stoppage time, and the game ended 2-1--fair score line for an electrifying, competitive contest.
What did you think of the performance today? Encouraged? Discouraged? Tell us below.