Brazil 2014: World Cup Warm Up #2 – USMNT vs. Turkey – Preview
The second of USMNT’s pre-World Cup friendlies is against Azerbaijan. OTF’s Joe Maskivish brings the preview…
With Tuesday night’s lackluster performance in San Francisco behind them, the United States heads to the other coast for a match-up Sunday (2pm ET; ESPN2) against Turkey.
The game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ allows the Yanks an opportunity to build on a few positives that emerged from the tussle against Azerbaijan and brings the hope of progression against a slightly more formidable European squad.
The benefit of six substitutions allowed Jurgen Klinsmann the convenience of giving all but four of his field players time on the pitch against Azerbaijan. Expect the remaining four: John Brooks, Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, and Julian Green, to get their boots dirty in this one against the Crescent-Stars.
The most significant of these four, of course, is Captain Clint Dempsey, who was a late scratch in the game Tuesday night. He was pronounced fit during the week however, so reclaiming his starting role is but a mere formality.
Perhaps the most intriguing figure to miss out on the action against Azerbaijan is Kyle Beckerman. Depending on one’s view of the U.S. lineup, Beckerman and Jermaine Jones are vying for the slot of defensive midfielder in Klinsmann’s diamond midfield.
While some have called for an end to the 4-4-2 formation after the uninspired performance earlier in the week, it seems as though it would defeat the purpose of the exhibition schedule to not allow Beckerman a run at the position, in tandem with Michael Bradley, to see if better results are achieved.
In Turkey, the Stars and Stripes will be facing a European side with a slightly more polished resume than that of the Land of Fire, Azerbaijan. Though not quite a powerhouse (they failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup), Turkey does carry a handful of international successes and a roster sprinkled with players from the top leagues in Europe.
Turkey’s soccer history boasts three World Cup appearances, including a remarkable 3rd place finish in their last showing, the 2002 tournament. Likewise, The Crescent-Stars managed a semi-final run in the 2008 European Championships.
Not loaded with marquee talent, Atlético Madrid winger Arda Turan is the Captain of the side, and is coming off a solid campaign with the champions of La Liga. However, Turan was forced to miss Turkey’s midweek match-up against Honduras due to injury.
The game, won by Turkey 2-0, shows their quality alongside CONCACAF opponents, though a short turnaround time could lead to heavy legs. If the game is close late, look for USMNT’s depth and rest to make a difference.
An early lead would serve the United States well, as learning to play long stretches will benefit. With the talent gap between Azerbaijan and Turkey, one cannot expect the U.S. to dominate possession again, and the sight of Turkey playing ten behind the ball seems unlikely.
With only two games remaining before the long flight to Brazil, Klini’s boys don’t have time to “try again next game.” At some point, Jozy Altidore needs to start finding the back of the net, Michael Bradley needs to take over a game with the ball at his feet, and Clint Dempsey needs to bring the creative energy and nose for the goal that has made him a star.
While trial and error in the feeling out process of different formations and personnel is understandable now, results matter. That said, wins in Send-Off Series matches don’t necessarily preclude cohesion. With proper leadership failure can breed unity, which can lead to success when it matters most.
Needless to say, performances like the one in San Francisco on Tuesday will result in looking up at the rest of Group G from the bottom. This U.S. team needs to quickly find its way, as the World Cup will be here sooner than we all think. Now though, here some burning questions heading into the Turkey match-up:
- Will a central midfield pairing of Michael Bradley & Kyle Beckerman be given 90 minutes to see what they can accomplish as a duo?
- Will the U.S. score again off of a set piece? Both goals against Azerbaijan were set up from set pieces.
- Can Jozy Altidore find the scoring sheet?
- Will Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez be given any time together as the central defense pairing?
- After Turkey, how will fans feel about their Yanks heading into the final friendly?
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OTF’s Joe Maskivish will be tracking USMNT’s World Cup preparations and progress until the boys come back from Brazil. Follow him @JoeMaskivish.