USMNT hangs on to beat Turkey 2-1 in pre-World Cup friendly
The U.S. beat Turkey 2-1 on Sunday afternoon but the collective play of the back four was still extremely concerning.
FINAL: USA 2, Turkey 1
The U.S. national team held on despite giving up a late penalty kick, beating Turkey 2-1 on Sunday in New Jersey.
Fabian Johnson's first-half combo with Michael Bradley was the take-away highlight as the duo hooked up for a gorgeous give-and-go (see video below), resulting in a one-touch blast to the left side of the goal. Clint Dempsey knocked in an awful mistake from the Turkish backline, which ultimately became the game-winner. Right place, right time for Dempsey. On the flip side, the U.S. still needs to see more from Jozy Altidore, who flubbed numerous chances in front of the goal.
But the opportunities created through fluid, open-field passing were certainly encouraging, and a much better sign than the stagnant offense on display vs. Azerbaijan.
Now 2 for 2 in terms of pre-World Cup exhibitions, the U.S. team has only one more opportunity (June 7 vs. Nigeria) to rectify the shaky back line it displayed on Sunday afternoon. After an entertaining first half that saw both sides develop numerous chances, Klinsmann clearly wasn't thrilled with his side's defensive effort. He brought on John Brooks and Kyle Beckerman in lieu of Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones and both had a significant impact on defense. Another sub, bulky defender DeAndre Yedlin, made an immediate imprint as well as he cleaned up a few tense moments.
It wasn't pretty for left back Timmy Chandler, though, whose careless giveaway late in the game directly led to the penalty and subsequent goal for Turkey. Chandler was starting in place of DaMarcus Beasley, and fans would be wise to make note of which player starts at left back against Nigeria. That position doesn't appear settled, and whoever starts clearly has Klinsmann's vote of confidence.
Two other subs -- Julian Green and G Brad Guzan -- each performed well, although shouldn't expect to see much action barring an injury. Guzan, in particular, acquitted himself extremely well even as his defenders left him in bad positions numerous times.
The bottom line is that Sunday's exhibition was a stiff test for the U.S. squad, and it can be thrilled with the offensive chances it created. The defense, however, appears to be a work in progess, and that thought should be terrifying going against the likes of Germany and Portugal in just a few weeks.
89' -- Goal for Turkey. Selcuk Inan scores off a penalty kick for Turkey and it's 2-1 USA. Timmy Chandler lost the ball facing goalie Brad Guzan on the right side and a Turkish player stripped it from behind. With Guzan on his heels, Geoff Cameron blocked the shot with his hand, drawing the penalty. Bad loss of possession there for Chandler. He should've played it back to Guzan, who could've easily cleared it. That's exactly the weakness in the back that could cost the US in Brazil.
80' -- Just as I type that, Altidore makes an angled run, cuts back to the middle with the ball and takes a left-footed chance on the goalie which goes for a corner. He couldn't get a lot on it, but more of that, please.
78' -- Have to like the play of subs Julian Green and John Brooks. Green has made some aggressive runs, earned a foul, kept the passing fluid while Brooks made a goal-saving deflection off a Turkish cross.
Still a bit sloppy up front for the US, particularly Jozy Altidore, who continues deferring to crosses instead of attempting shots on goal.
71' -- Bizarre play with Jozy Altidore, who left a Turkish defender on the ground, had a clear path to the goalie, missed his initial chance and then, only then, was the play stopped. Not sure what went on there, but as Taylor Twellman pointed out, Altidore still didn't capitalize.
Whistle or not, that didn't look like a confident attack from Jozy. Reminded me of everything Torres does.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) June 1, 2014
69' -- Subs: Mix Diskerud in for Graham Zusi. Diskerud came on in the second last Tuesday and netted a quick goal to boost the U.S.
66' -- Graham Zusi is becoming an integral part of the offense with his precise, deliberate crosses and physical play. He led young Julian Green with a beautiful cross into the box, but Green wasn't able to handle it. That pass was on par with Bradley's #lobcity to Fabian Johnson in the first half.
63' -- Subs: Eighteen-year-old Julian Green is coming on for Brad Davis and DeAndre Yedlin is coming in for Fabian Johnson. Both need to show off their defensive chops if they want to see action in Brazil. For Green, it's only his second CAP with the U.S. team.
60' -- Again, the U.S. defensive line is caught way, way too high and it was nearly exposed save for great one-on-one stop from Brad Guzan. That one's on Timmy Chandler, who needs to keep his position on the outside. Turkey seems to be picking on the left side of the defense (a smart move given their inexperience).
55' -- Even after the substitutions, the backline still looks extremely timid. John Brooks had an opportunity to clear a lofted ball but opted to let it settle, and it led to a low, well-driven shot from Turkey. Not exactly what Klinsmann had in mind. Look for Kyle Beckerman to sit even further back to make his presence felt.
52' -- GOAL!!! Clint Dempsey was gifted this tap-in. Timmy Chandler swept in a cross from the left side, and it appeared to be covered with two Turkish defenders. But an ill-timed swing from their fullback left the ball sitting a foot in front of the goal for Dempsey. He'll take it and it's 2-0.
Substitutions: John Brooks is coming in for Matt Besler at center back, Kyle Beckerman in for Jermaine Jones in the midfield and back-up goalie Brad Guzan will mine the net for Tim Howard.
Yes, Klinsmann wants to give his subs some PT, but he's clearly not content with how the defense played in the first half.
"Defensively we struggled here and there because they came with two attacking midfielders through the middle and we only had actually Jermaine Jones against two guys, so we need to adjust it now in the locker room. I think we'll look much better in the second half," he told ESPN.
"They're giving us the benchmark we need right now," he added. That's the key. Turkey is a good barometer for where this U.S. team stands.
Halftime: 1-0 USA leads Turkey. Here's that beautiful goal:
A few observations after an enteraining first half. Turkey's attack was able to challenge the U.S. with speed and physicality -- a great test for the U.S. backline. After 25 shaky minutes that saw Turkey establish more chances than Klinsmann's squad, the back four seemed to settle down. Make no mistake. Turkey is a good team and Klinsmann elected to play them by design. Thus far, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones have really stood out on the defensive end. They need to shore up the spacing in the central defense and not allow Turkey's strikers so much room. Perhaps Bradley will look to play a bit more defensive in the second.
As far as the offense goes, even without a goal, you have to like the activity of Jozy Altidore, who has held the ball up front and been liberal with his passing. Had he not pulled the ball back to reset the offense, there's no light, lofting pass from Bradley to Johnson that lands in the goal. Clint Dempsey's groin appears to be a non-issue. Both strikers have been great targets, and Dempsey himself has had a couple decent chances, especially the one-on-one which could've very easily been called a foul as the defender took him down from behind.
The other thing to make note of is the physicality of this game. Altidore, Dempsey and Graham Zusi have all knocked shoulders a few times with Turkey defenders. In short, an entertaining first half against a World-Cup caliber team in Turkey. We'll be with you throughout the second half.
37' -- Jermaine Jones, as he's accustomed to doing, laid it all on the line as he slid to block an outside shot from the 18 and wound up blocking it with his head. He was down for a minute but appears to be OK. Meanwhile the U.S. countered and nearly scored off a one-on-one from Clint Dempsey, but he was taken down without a penalty. So it goes.
28' -- As wonderful a pass as that was from Bradley, Fabian Johnson's first-touch strike into the left side of the goal was equally as impressive. That's Johnson's first goal for the U.S. Beautiful, highlight-reel stuff.
26' -- GOAL!!! Altidore played it back, let the offense reset before Fabian Johnson tapped it to Michael Bradley who lofted the ball perfectly back onto Johnson's foot inside the box. That's a Chris-Paul-like give-and-go.
22' -- Aside from Altidore's questionable non-goal, the U.S. has had its fair share of chances. A beautiful one-two combo from Altidore and Bradley nearly netted the U.S. a goal, but a last-second deflection cleared the ball for Turkey. If they're to score, it seems as if it will come off transition in space.
20' -- Another near-miss for Turkey as a deflection sails over Tim Howard. Turkey's taking advantage of perfectly-angled runs, exposing the backline's inexperience. We may be seeing DaMarcus Beasley in the second half.
14' -- Jozy Altidore nearly had his first national team goal of 2014 off a gorgeous curling corner kick, but the referee called a questionable shove. No goal. 0-0. If we're being honest, Altidore's foul call was bogus, but there was definitely a hand ball in there. All in all, nothing for Jozy.
12' -- Scary moment for U.S. defense as Turkey shows off some stellar one-touch passing in the box but misses the shot wide right. It all started from a cheap Geoff Cameron foul near the end line, and nearly ended in disaster. The spotlight is very much on the backline today.
7' -- Again, Graham Zusi makes his presence felt early-on with a wonderful lob to a sprinting Clint Dempsey. The U.S. striker tried to chip Turkey's goalie, but the angle wasn't there. Turkey nearly scored on the recovery after a mistake from Jermaine Jones.
5' -- We're off at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. and already the U.S. possession looks more fluid than it did against Azerbaijan. Altidore looks engaged and has already gotten his first few touches on the ball. As a group, they're playing at a quicker pace and taking advantage in transition. The defense looks comfortable thus far.
2:02 p.m. ET: Three changes for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad against Turkey. Obviously, a healthy Clint Dempsey up top instead of Chris Wondolowski, Brad Davis will start at left midfielder instead of Alejandro Bedoya and Timmy Chandler takes the place of veteran defender DaMarcus Beasley.
The most interesting move has to be Chandler for Beasley, who is hoping to play in his fourth World Cup. Klinsmann, as he did with his final 23, is clearly opting for youth in Sunday's friendly. The juggling may also be an effort to find legitimate chemistry in the backline, a major, major question heading into the team's training camp.
1:48 p.m. ET: The U.S. men’s national team debut last week – a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan – left a lot to be desired, frankly. In fairness, it was their first match together after a grueling two-week training camp, and it was also the group’s first PLD game (post-Landon-Donovan).
The U.S. had a number of excellent chances off set pieces thanks to tremendous deliveries from Graham Zusi and Brad Davis, but by in large, they failed to assert themselves offensively. Against Group G powers Germany and Portugal, the U.S. offense will be crucial if they have any hope of advancing.
On Sunday, coach Jurgen Klinsmann needs to see more from Jozy Altidore, whose strength lies in holding possession in the attacking third. But Altidore’s not on the 23-man squad to simply hold possession. He needs to be more assertive up front and, if nothing else, at least force the keeper into a save.
Against Turkey, the U.S. is expected to have Clint Dempsey back after he missed last Tuesday with a sore groin, so fans will get a chance to see the team closer to their anticipated World Cup form.
On defense, look for Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron to continue to build chemistry in the back (and for Besler to avoid any sketchy back-passes). Klinsmann is opting to start Timmy Chandler at left back over veteran DaMarcus Beasley, an interesting move given the contrasting experience levels of both players.
Turkey, coming off a 2-0 win over Brazil-bound Honduras, is ranked 39th in the world, a far-cry from the 85th-ranked team the U.S. saw in Azerbaijan. Look for more cohesion, stronger possessions, and more creativity other than just hoping to knock one in off of a corner or a free kick. Remember, it’s about the process and not the final score – although a 3-0 win rife with consistent chances could do a lot for the team’s confidence.
We’ll be here with you throughout the entirety of Sunday’s match against Turkey.
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