Welcome to The Match Report, where everything but the score matters.
Two friendlies, two wins for the U.S. Men”s National Team. Goals from Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey powered Jurgen”s Yanks to a 2-1 victory over a Turkish side that faded like a Walmart t-shirt in the sun. Questions abound about the quality of the American defense while sloppiness continued to stifle an improved American attack.
After extinguishing the Land of Fire in San Francisco on Tuesday, Jurgen”s Yanks traveled to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey to take on Turkey in the second match of the #USMNT”s World Cup Send-Off Series. With the Group of Death looming, Jurgen and the U.S. coaching staff elected to play against Turkey because their style of play mirrors that of Portugal. Both sides deploy a counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation and use enough hair product to lift their nations”s GDP by one-tenth of one percent. With that said, Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, and Turkey does not. If the U.S struggle to contain the Turkish attack in Jersey, Klinsmann will need to reevaluate his defensive positioning.
For the Yanks, Jurgen slightly shuffled his lineup from Tuesday”s tuneup against Azerbaijan. Predictably, Clint Dempsey returned to the starting lineup in place of Chris Wondolowski. On the back line, Timmy Chandler, having ended his on-again, off-again affair with the United States, started at left back over old faithful Run DMB.
Surprisingly, Brad Davis replaced Alejandro Bedoya on the left side of the American midfield diamond. Did anyone see this coming? Davis must’ve read every hate-barbed tweet directed at him after LD was dropped and distilled them into a moisturizing balm that Berti Vogts rubbed on his legs because he”s turned into a creative, multi-dimensional football player of late. A friend once said that if David Beckham looked like Brad Davis, he would”ve spent his entire career at Spurs. With a cultured left foot, Davis won”t beat any defenders in a foot race, but he can hit a great set piece and deliver a final pass. He”s also pretty good with his hands:
Turkey threatened early and often in the first half, finding acres of space between American defenders Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron. A better team than Turkey (read: Ghana, Portugal, or Germany) would”ve punished the Americans for looking, at times, sloppier than Justin Bieber on a night out. If these lapses continue, Klinsmann will be forced to drop Michael Bradley deeper into the American defense, stifling his potential creative output further up the pitch. In the attacking third, the Americans did not lack for opportunities but struggled to find an incisive, killer ball. If only the Americans had a veteran World Cup player who could serve as a conduit between midfield and attack . . .
On the field, Jozy Altidore hassled and harried the Turkish center backs for 90 minutes, but too often he, Clint Dempsey, and the American midfield were out of sync, missing simple passes and checking into the same space. But Dempsey did do this, and it was good.
At the half, Klinsmann brought on young and tattooed John Brooks to replace Besler and tapped MLS stalwart Kyle Beckerman to take over for Jermaine Jones. Though the defensive lapses largely subsided, Turkey was also a less inventive and energetic side after the break, maintaining possession but rarely threatening backup keeper Brad Guzan. Although the Americans did concede late (more on that in Part 4: Timmy v. Run DMB), Brooks and Beckerman should be given longer looks against Nigeria on Saturday. If they perform well, they could earn a place in Klinsmann”s starting XI against Ghana.
Michael Bradley in a Diamond is Jurgen”s Best Friend
After the game, Turkish coach Fatih Terim praised Michael Bradley, saying: “Bradley is a very good player. He has the playmaking skills . . . But I didn”t have any ideas of man marking him.” The Americans can be glad that Terim”s scouting report failed to account for Bradley”s quality. At the top of the American midfield, Bradley dogged Turkey”s midfielders in their own half, sparking counter-attacks with hard-charging runs through the center of the pitch. Hopefully Ghana doesn”t heed Terim”s advice and man-mark Bradley because no other American player possesses Bradley”s combination of vision, skill, and aggression. This fact is probably the biggest American attacking weakness right now. Despite improved play from Brad Davis and Graham Zusi, no other American midfielder seems capable of springing an attack like Bradley. Though a defensive liability, it would be intriguing to see Mix Diskerud in that role against Nigeria.
Returning to the first American goal, Bradley”s assist, a subtle, perfectly weighted chip, is what football fans dream of, and it would”ve even made Bradley”s old Roma teammate Francesco Totti smile. We”d be remiss if we didn”t also acknowledge Fabian Johnson”s expertly taken volley. Drilled emphatically into the side-netting, that classy finish made turned a goal into a great one. For my money, it was the best American assist and finish since Mix Diskerud did this to Mexico in 2013.
Unsurprisingly, Bradley sparked the 2nd American goal, driving at a backpedaling Turkish back line. Yes, sloppy defending from Turkey gifted Deuce an easy tap-in, but casino give credit to Bradley for sparking the breakout. As the most important American outfield player, his main objective against Nigeria is to not get hurt.
Positional Battle: Kyle or Jermaine?
At the half, Klinsmann opted for Kyle Beckerman in place of Jermaine Jones at the bottom of the midfield diamond and slid Michael Bradley beside him to better shield the back four. The adjustment worked. Perhaps Klinsmann speculated that Turkish players would see Beckerman and, in Proustian fashion, flashback to a steamy Istanbul night when, two hookahs deep, they first felt as if they could touch the heartbeat of the moon. That’s the last joke I’ll make about Beckerman’s hair (today). Whether or not you care for his dreads, you’ve got to respect Beckerman’s MLS career and positional discipline. Many think Beckerman pairs better with Bradley because Beckerman offers Bradley the freedom to create up field without having to worry about a card-prone and adventuresome midfield counterpart behind him. Look for Beckerman to get more meaningful minutes against Nigeria on Saturday. Though Jones didn”t play poorly, he also didn”t dramatically outshine Beckerman who has played at the bottom of a midfield diamond for much of his tenure at Real Salt Lake. A good showing against Nigeria could push Beckerman into Klinsmann”s first XI.
Positional Battle: Timmy or Run DMB?
When Timmy Chandler made Klinsmann”s 23-man roster for Brazil, many American fans, recalling Chandler”s half-hearted showing against Honduras in the Hex, were left to grind their teeth in frustration. Against Turkey, Chandler delivered another inconsistent performance. Despite assisting on Dempsey”s scrappy goal, Chandler was at fault for Turkey”s lone strike.
After getting outmuscled off the ball, Chandler maddeningly left his mark, who drove unimpeded at a helpless Brad Guzan, eventually drawing a Turkish penalty kick. Look for both Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley to get minutes against Nigeria, and may the better player start against Ghana.
With only one friendly left before the flight to Brazil, Klinsmann”s new formational experiment has not yet produced a convincing result. Looking ahead to Nigeria, the United States will seek to correct the defensive lapses that almost gifted Turkey first-half goals. In attack, Altidore and Dempsey need to find a better rhythm with the midfield to offer more creativity and flair. A goal for Jozy wouldn”t hurt, too, as the striker hasn”t scored for club or country since December 4, 2013. And now, as always, the Klinsmann Wardrobe Report.
While in San Francisco, Klinsmann donned a sensible windbreaker and gray slacks to battle Candlestick’s crushing breezes, Klinsmann opted for simple and stylish blue polo at Red Bull Arena, exuding the cool confidence that presaged an American victory. Against Nigeria, we”d like to see Klinsmann display the flair that propelled the Americans through qualification. Might we suggest this patriotic and pocketed henley? The perfect choice for what promises to be a steamy, Florida night.
What did you think of the American performance against Turkey? Who would you like to see start against Nigeria on Saturday? How do you about the United States team heading into the Group of Death? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @8by8mag or @andrew_helms.