USMNT V. Turkey Recap: Not Quite There


Jun 1, 2014; Harrison, NJ, USA; United States defender Fabian Johnson celebrates after scoring a goal against Turkey during the first half of their international friendly soccer match at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday afternoon, the United States Men’s National Team played Turkey to a 2-1 victory in their second of three games in the World Cup Send-Off Series.  It was an exciting game, and gave us a good look at how training has been going for the past three weeks.  Today, we are looking at a few key elements of the game as the team prepares for Brazil.  For full match highlights, check out this article.

The first half of the game was very much box-to-box, and I was honestly not sure who would score first.  We saw some exciting attacking moves from the USMNT offense (and a few from the defense).  Overall, it was a much improved attack from last Monday’s match against Azerbaijan.  Jozy, despite not notching a goal, played an incredible game.  And, say what you want, he got robbed of his goal in the first half.   Michael Bradley’s service to Fabian Johnson for the first goal was some of the most beautiful football I have ever seen. The second half was not as good, but seeing the US offense take advantage of a sleeping Turkish defense for Clint Dempsey’s goal was very satisfying.  We even saw some improved US defense near the end of the game.    But there are still plenty of things to worry about as we head into the most difficult group the US has ever faced in a World Cup.

My biggest worry from this game: What are we going to do with our back 4? As I stated earlier, we did see some improved defense towards the end of the game.  But for everything the offense got right in the first half, the defense got wrong.  My biggest defensive gripe:  Timmy Chandler.  Timmy had some good clearances, and you can tell he’s working hard out there, but he cannot seem to stay in position.  Time after time after time, he would rush forward and let Turkish offense in behind him.  He doesn’t seem to have developed an intelligence for what is going on the pitch around him.  And, the last 20 minutes of the game, he was gassed.  No energy, no speed, no reason for him to still be on the pitch.  Other than his exhaustion,   I think a lot of his problems today came from the diamond midfield formation.  Nürnberg generally plays a 4-2-3-1, which gives him a little more freedom to move around, and have some attacking ambitions, but in the diamond midfield, that kind of play leaves the defense open.

Speaking of the diamond midfield, I’m not loving it.  At least not right now with this team.  The diamond midfield has the potential to be a great system.  We saw glimpses of that today, and it worked very well for the Stars and Stripes in the first half against Mexico back in April, but it’s not a system you can just implement on the fly.  Clubs that use the diamond formation successfully are clubs that have spent lots of time with it.  Each player in it knows exactly what their role in the formation is, and as a result, they work well as a team together.  The US just hasn’t had the time they need to really perfect their diamond formation.  Too many players jump out of formation and back into something they are familiar with, leaving gaping holes in the defense.  If we are going to use it as a wild card to pull out of our back pocket for the second half or last 2o of a game, that’s fine, but I really hope that Klinsmann is not planning on making it the calling card of the US team.   If we are going to use the diamond midfield, we need Kyle Beckerman at the bottom point of the diamond, Michael Bradley at the top, and Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya on either side.  Though I did enjoy seeing Brad Davis in the starting lineup today.

I love Brad Davis as an attacking midfielder, and his set piece delivery was good again today.  I don’t love Brad Davis in the diamond midfield, because he has a hard time getting back to defend.  He seems to forget that he is not exactly a left winger, and that he has to be able to get back to help defend.  The majority of the time the Turkish attacker got through, it was on the left side.

I do have a serious question for Klinsmann.  When are we going to see the Julian Green you keep telling us about?  Green got 30 minutes today, and he managed to do a lot of what we saw him do against Mexico — fall and get pushed around.  The kid is out of his depth, absolutely.  I am not a Green basher, I think he is probably the future of the US Team, and I am still thrilled he chose to give his allegiance to the US Team.  But he does not belong on this world cup roster.  I can think of at least 3 other people that I would rather see in that roster spot.  I agree wholeheartedly with the chorus of fans and writers who say, if you want Green to have World Cup experience, buy him a ticket and let him watch from the sideline.  That’s probably all he will do anyway, and then we can have someone on the bench who might actually be able to make a difference.

That’s not to say that all the youthful options made poor showings today. John Brooks showed in his 30 minute outing that, while he is young and makes mistakes, he does belong with this group.  I enjoyed his presence on the backline, and, in my opinion, was a big reason the US defense looked a little better towards the end of the match.  Yedlin also looked pretty solid.

Of course, I have to mention Fabian Johnson.  What. A. Goal.  I’m still going back and watching it every few minutes.  It was beautiful give and go, from Fabian to Michael and back to Fabian.  There is not a defense in the world that could have stopped that shot.  Unfortunately, that is where my praise for Fabian ends.  I don’t actually have a whole lot of negative to say about him, and that goal was epic enough to put him in the positives column today, but the rest of his game was kind of… meh.

So we still have quite a bit of work to do before we face off against Ghana on the 16th.  I don’t like to end on a negative note, especially because this game was actually kind of reassuring, so I will say this: Improve as much before the Nigeria game, and we should see a first class team take the field next Saturday.

What did you think of the game today?  Do you feel relieved, worried, hopeful?  Sound off in the comments!