U.S. defeats Turkey in a match where both teams wasted chances.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, June 1, 2014) -- In a wide-open match, the United States men received goals from defender Fabian Johnson and striker Clint Dempsey, one in each half, to defeat Turkey 2-1 in front of 27,462 this afternoon in sold-out Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
A late penalty kick by Turkey midfielder Selcuk Inan narrowed the margin and made for a few tense moments for the Americans before the final whistle.
U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann continues to experiment with what for him is a significant tactical change. All through World Cup qualifying, the Americans have been playing a 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders sitting in front of four defenders and Jozy Altidore serving as a lone striker in front of three midfielders.
Against Azerbaijan Tuesday in San Francisco and now against Turkey, Klinsmann has changed to a 4-4-2 with the four midfielders playing in a kind of diamond with Jermaine Jones as the only defensive midfielder with Michael Bradley playing on top of the diamond. Dempsey plays on top as a second forward, in part trying to take some of the pressure off Altidore.
This diamond in the middle with two forwards on top is much more offensive approach and produced mixed results today. The match was wide open, but in the first half, the U.S. left a lot of open space. One result was Jones was faced with two attacking Turks and got little help from the American defense or wingers tracking back. This allowed Turkey a half dozen golden chances and the visitor should have had three goals in the opening 30 minutes. Awful finishing took the U.S. off the hook.
The first American goal was a thing of beauty, the second a laugher made possible by two awful gaffes by Turkey.
On the first American goal, Bradley took a pass from Johnson and held it while Johnson continued a run for goal. Bradley then chipped the ball over the defense into Johnson’s path and the defender used his first touch to blast it out of the air, into the far side of the net. It was one of the prettiest goals the U.S. has scored in a long time.
The second and eventually decisive goal was not so much a thing of beauty. Defender Timmy Chandler took a pass from midfielder Brad Davis and sent a low cross into the penalty area. Turkey defender Hakan Kadir Balta just about whiffed on an attempted clearance, mis-hooting the ball and sending it rolling to his right post where startled goalkeeper Onur Recep could only watch Dempsey poke it home to make it 2-0.
Dempsey really didn’t celebrate the tally; he just laughed as he ran back for the ensuing kickoff.
Altidore continued his goal drought. He had several chances, including going one-on-one against Recep, but he still cannot find the net. To give him a chance, Klinsmann kept him in for the full 90 minutes. Altidore had a header into the net disallowed for a push on the keeper. As his bad luck continues, he now has not scored an international goal since October.
Turkey is probably one of the two or three best teams not to have qualified for the World Cup in Brazil. It brought many of its front-line players for this U.S. tour. Starting today for the Turks were midfielder Nuri Sahin of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, striker Mevlüt Erdniç of Saint-Etienne and defender-winger Caner Erkin of Turkey’s Fenerbehçe. It’s probably a good thing Turkish coach Fatih Terim didn’t have available attacking midfielder Arda Turan of Spanish power Atlético Madrid, rumored on his way to Manchester United in England’s Premier League in a blockbuster summer transfer.
Clearly Klinsmann had hoped for more out of his squad tonight compared to Tuesday. All in all, there was not much here for Klinsmann to be satisfied about.
The Americans’ last friendly before leaving for Brazil is Saturday against Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla. The Americans’ moment of truth – the Cup’s “Group of Death” -- is fast approaching.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: He faced three shots with no problems, though he had some trouble organizing the defense in front of him.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 6: He broke up a Turkey breakaway in the first half and was solid on defense, but went the distance despite fading late. He was able to get into the offense a bit more, but still isplaying out of position on the left side.
Defender Matt Besler - 5: He did better than against Azerbaijan, but having said that, there was still quite a bit of confusion in the center part of defense.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 5.5: As always, he was good in the air; on the ground, less so. He contributed to the defensive confusion.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 7: He looks like the man who will be on the right side of defense. He was solid defensively and had a picture goal.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: He was great at times, but he too looked to have tiring legs and faded a bit towards the end.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6: As the only man stationed in front of a confused defense through much of the half he played, he was constantly under pressure. He did very well, even when faced with two attackers.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 4.5: He had little effect on the match. At times, he seemed not to know whether to go forward or drop back and help defensively. Not his best game.
Midfielder Brad Davis - 5: He played a sloppy hour. His crosses were not crisp, he had some defensive problems and probably did not help his chances to start in Brazil.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 6: He was active on top, scoring the eventual match-winner on one of the easier goals of his career by being in the right place.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5.5: No one can criticize his effort. He ran himself into the ground. At time, he was effective, but not often enough. He experienced bad luck on Altidore’s disallowed goal.
Defender John Brooks (46th minute for Besler) - 6: He had a shaky start, but settled down and did OK, even when put under pressure.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan (46th minute for Howard) - 6.5: He was busier than Howard, but did fine, only conceding a penalty kick.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (46th minute for Jones) - 6: He did a good job defensively, but was put under less pressure then Jones had been after Turkey started substituting.
Midfielder Julian Green (64th minute for Davis) - 4: He is still very much a work in progress. He looks like a long-term project..
Defender DeAndre Yedlin (64th minute for Johnson) - 5.5: After shaking off a case of nerves, he actually settled in and did quite well, maybe surprisingly so.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud (69th minute for Zusi) - 5: He left little or no impression on the match.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Fabian Johnson.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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