Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. Men’s National Team coaching staff watched the first half of Turkey’s last game, a friendly against Honduras in Washington, D.C., on the plane from San Francisco to New York City. The score was tied at 0-0 heading into halftime. Then the plane landed, and the staff and players had to leave.
If the flight had landed a bit later, Klinsmann might have had a glimpse right then and there on the challenge Turkey would present to the United States. Saint-Etienne striker Mevlüt Erdniç and Fenerbehçe defender Caner Erkin scored in Turkey’s 2-0 win against Los Catrachos, with both goals coming off defensive lapses that were immediately pounced upon by Turkey.
The meaning of this performance, especially as it relates to the U.S. back line, is not lost on Klinsmann.
“I think Turkey is an unpredictable team,” Klinsmann said on Friday. “They have a lot of individual skills and good players that can make a difference in half a second, as Honduras experienced, and before that Ireland, and many other teams before that. We need games that really keep us on our toes, especially for our back line, that really challenges them not to lose concentration and focus even for one moment.”
The USA’s defense has been a near-constant topic of conversation throughout the team’s World Cup preparations, with most of the talk centering around the team’s World Cup inexperience. Of the group, only one player (DaMarcus Beasley) has played in a World Cup, but even his time in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups came as a midfielder, not among the back four. The concern is that this inexperience could lead to miscues like the ones Honduras endured against Turkey. However, U.S. center back Matt Besler believes significant experience can be gained simply by becoming tighter on the training field.
“Anytime you are doing a back four drill, anytime you open it up into a scrimmage at the end of training, you take those opportunities very seriously,” Besler said. “You just try and work things out by feeling it, by experiencing it.”
Turkey’s attack will have plenty to keep Besler and his fellow defenders busy. Besides Erdinç, who is coming off a solid season in Ligue 1 with 12 goals in 31 appearances, Turkey also brings Burak Yilmaz, the Galatasaray forward who will be the team’s primary scoring threat if he starts. Yilmaz stands at 6-foot-2 and combines his size and physical power with a finishing touch that can either be delicate or powerful. Simply put, Yilmaz can be a handful for any defender in the world if he is on his game.
However, Turkey’s true strength lies in a trio of midfielders that can make plays in a variety of ways for Yilmaz, Erdinç or whoever else starts at forward on Sunday. In Arda Turan, Turkey has a left winger coming off a stellar title-winning season with Atlético Madrid. The team also boasts playmaking central midfielders Selçuk Inan and Nuri Sahin, a pair of midfield generals that will test the U.S. chemistry in the center of the park, whether it is the Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones combo that started against Azerbaijan, or some other partnership.
“For me, one of the most important triangles you can have on the field is your two center backs and your holding midfielder,” Besler said. “The key is forming a good partnership. It’s playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s being comfortable with each other.”
That strength in midfield will be supported with surging runs forward from right back Gökhan Gönül – a factor that could test the shape of whichever formation Klinsmann decides to use on Sunday.
“It doesn’t matter really whether you play a 4-4-2 diamond or a flat four in midfield or a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. It’s the whole team, how it shapes up, how it works as an entire unit, how it attacks collectively and how it defends collectively,” Klinsmann said. “We wanted to start off a little bit easy with the Azerbaijan game. Now with Turkey, we really have a benchmark that will give us a little more insight into certain things.”
The stability of the U.S. defense is sure to be one of them.
CHICAGO (May 31, 2014) – A sellout crowd of more than 25,000 will be on hand when the U.S. Men’s National Team hosts Turkey on Sunday, June 1, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
The home stadium of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls will be the site of the USA’s second match of its three-game Send-Off Series in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Kickoff for Sunday’s game is at 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2, WatchESPN, Univision, Univision Deportes Network and ESPN Deportes Radio. Fans can also follow on Twitter @ussoccer.
The USA is coming off a 2-0 victory against Azerbaijan on May 27 in its first Send-Off Series match, powered by Yingli Solar. Second-half substitutes Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson provided the goals and Tim Howard tied a U.S. MNT record with his 53rd career victory, matching Kasey Keller’s career mark.
Following Sunday’s game, the USA wraps up its Send-Off Series against Nigeria on Saturday, June 7, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision and ESPN Deportes Radio.
The U.S. is less than three weeks away from the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where the team will face Ghana (6 p.m. ET June 16), Portugal (6 p.m. ET on June 22) and Germany (12 p.m. ET on June 26) in Group G. All three games will be broadcast on ESPN and WatchESPN.
CHICAGO (August 4, 2015) – The draw to determine the potential host for the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final will be conducted on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at Soccer House in Chicago. The draw will be streamed live on U.S. Soccer’s YouTube channel and ussoccer.com beginning at 11 a.m. CT.
All four semifinalists have applied to host the Final. In order to determine hosting rights, individual cards containing the names of the Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City will each be placed into separate envelopes, shuffled and then selected at random. The chronological order in which the four envelopes are chosen will determine the hosting priority for the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.
The 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals take place on Wednesday, Aug. 12, with 2014 finalist Philadelphia Union hosting four-time champion Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. ET at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. Two-time U.S. Open Cup winner Sporting Kansas City hosts 2013 finalist Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. CT at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Both matches will be shown live U.S. Soccer’s YouTube channel and ussoccer.com.
The U-18 Men’s National Team and head coach Javier Perez are in Sweden for the Open Nordic Cup. Perez talked with ussoccer.com to discuss the team and the new players which open a new cycle with this tournament.
ussoccer.com: What’s it like to be back at it with a new group of players for a brand new U-18 MNT cycle?
Javier Perez: “Every time we start a new cycle it’s very exciting. Especially for us coaches. We just finished two years of work with the ’97 group and we feel that’s a very strong pool for coach Tab Ramos and the new U-20 Men’s National Team. We have 87 players in that pool, from all over the world, from Europe and from MLS, and many of them, which is different than previous cycles, are already professionals and many have already logged minutes with their first teams, which is great. I think that pool is really strong. As we start with this new group, the ‘99’s, this is a very good group because we can start all over again and we have two years ahead of us.
“We’ll start in a different way than we have in the previous cycles. [In the past], we started with a domestic camp where we invite 36 players and we take a look at them. In this case, I’ve had the chance to attend different events and I’ve already been looking at these players for six months now. In April, I was with the U-16 National Team, which is a part of this group, for a tournament that they played in Holland. After that, I was at the DA Cup in Dallas, and after that I was at the Showcase and finally I was at the Academy Finals; so, I’ve had a good six months to make a proper evaluation and prepare this team for the first camp, which is going to be a little different because we are going to a tournament. We want to throw players into the cold water right away and see how they respond to the competition.”
ussoccer.com: This is a young group, but an experienced one that has played in the Academy and at the U-15, and U-16 levels. What will they bring to the table?
“We are in a country where we have a lot of resources and we are a country in progress in soccer. We are hungry. We’re hungry to know more about the game, we’re hungry to be one of the leading nations in soccer and all the changes that have been made in the last three or four years have been changes that have gone in the direction of creating a leading program.
JP: “One of the things, for instance, in the Academy was a goal of making the Academy bigger to add more players and reach more age groups. That was accomplished with the Academy extending its age group to U-14’s, which is really good for us because it gives us an opportunity to see players at a younger age and make a proper identification. Then we bring them into the program with the U-14 National Team and the U-15 National Team with John Hackworth and then on to the U-16 and U-18 groups.
“Right now we are making an earlier identification of the players and we provide them with more experience at an earlier age, which is beneficial for them to build the knowledge and the background that they need to compete against the top players in the world.”
ussocccer.com: What do you hope to accomplish at the upcoming Open Nordic Cup in Sweden?
JP: “This is the first camp for us, so I think the most important aspect for us as a coaching staff is to get to know the group and to provide experience to the players and then go there like we always go with the mentality to just compete, with a mentality to play with our style of play and with a mentality of course to win games. Every game we go on the field we go with the mentality that we are going to win. We want to do things right.
“I want to give opportunity not only to players that have lots of experience but also to some new ones that did well in the Academy and in the Showcase in Indianapolis. Right now they have the opportunity to show that they belong at the next level.”