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.
Nike Friendlies and Academy Winter Showcase Kick off Starting Nov. 28: The 2014 Development Academy Winter Showcase, which runs in conjunction with the Nike International Friendlies, begins the day after Thanksgiving, starting with the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team’s Nike Friendlies match against England on Friday, Nov. 28 (6 p.m. ET, live on ussoccer.com). The next day, the Academy’s U-18 age group opens up the Academy Winter Showcase event. The Nike Friendlies and Winter Showcase take place at Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
All six games for the Nike International Friendlies will be shown live on ussoccer.com, with the U.S. U-17 MNT’s match serving as the night cap at 6 p.m. ET.
U-17 MNT Closes Out Trip to Chile: The U.S. U-17 MNT drew Qatar 1-1 on Saturday to wrap up the 2014 Copa Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins in Talca, Chile. Haji Wright scored the USA’s 61st-minute equalizer. The LA Galaxy Academy product leads the U-17s with 18 goals in 19 games this year. On Nov. 22, the USA dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to Brazil after rallying from a two-goal deficit. Wright scored twice and PA Classics product Christian Pulisic scored a game-tying goal in the 85th minute.
For the latest Development Academy results, information and more, visit academy.demosphere.com and ussoccer.com’s Academy section. Follow the Academy on Twitter @ussoccer_acad, Instagram and Facebook. At the 2014 Development Academy Winter Showcase and Nike International Friendlies, use the #AcademyShowcase, #OneNationOneTeam and #1N1T hashtags.
ACADEMY QUICK HITS (Weekend of Nov. 22-23):
- West Conference: The Portland Timbers U-16 team earned its fourth win over its past five games with a 3-2 win against Crossfire Premier on Saturday in Northwest Division action. Carlos Anguiano scored the game-winning goal in the 77th minute and Jose Perez tallied two goals for the Timbers (5-3-2, 1.70 points per game).
- Central Conference: The Dallas Texans U-16s earned their sixth shutout of the season, posting a 1-0 victory against the Texas Rush on Saturday. Nicky Hernandez scored a goal in the 55th minute to improve to 7-1-3 (2.18 points per game). The Dallas Texans have extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.
- East Conference: In the Southeast Division, Charlotte Soccer Academy’s U-18s moved ahead of North Carolina Fusion into sixth place with a 1-0 victory on Sunday. Aidan Peterson scored the game’s lone goal in the 76th minute as Charlotte Soccer Academy posted its third straight shutout victory to move to 4-4-4 (1.33 points per game).
For all Development Academy results, standings and more, visit academy.demosphere.com or click on the following links:
Five Nominees up for Young Male Athlete of the Year: The nominees were announced for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year. All five have former ties to the Development Academy. They include U-17 MNT midfielder Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder Academy); U-20, U-23 and MNT midfielder Emerson Hyndman (FC Dallas Academy); U-17 MNT midfielder Christian Pulisic (PA Classics); U-17 and U-18 forward Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy) and MNT defender DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC Academy) who is age-eligible for the U-23s for Olympic qualifying.
Academy Product Morris Makes National Team Leap: Forward Jordan Morris, the 2012-13 Development Academy U-18 Player of the Year while playing for Seattle Sounders FC’s Academy side, made his Men’s National Team debut against the Republic of Ireland on Nov. 18. Morris relished the opportunity when he was brought into the 76th minute. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid, so it was an unbelievable honor and a great experience.”
UPCOMING ACADEMY SCHEDULE:
- Chicago Fire: Being Homegrown, Ep. 3: Harry Shipp (video)
- Colorado Rapids: Calvert Selected in Dispersal Draft
- New York Red Bulls: Academy Sides Earn Road Wins in Baltimore
- Philadelphia Union: Academy Teams in Prime Position as Fall Season Comes to Close
- Portland Timbers: Academy Teams go Unbeaten against Crossfire Premier
- Sporting Kansas City: Academy Sides Post Unbeaten Weekend vs. Solar Chelsea
- mlssoccer.com: MLS on Campus: Possible Options for 2015 MLS SuperDraft
- mlssoccer.com: Former IMG Forward Johannsson Scores First Goal Since Injury
The 2014 Development Academy Winter Showcase opens with the U-18 age group kicking things off Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
The Winter Showcase has become a staple in the Academy calendar over the years as the U-16 and U-18 age groups look forward to three competitive matches against out-of-conference opponents. Players will also compete with the watchful eyes of the U.S. Scouting Network, which will be in attendance and evaluate all games.
The U-18 Academy teams will play Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 2. The Academy’s U-16 group competes on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and 3.
The event also features a Development Academy Select match on Monday, Dec. 1, featuring players born in 1998 and 1999 (kickoff at 5 p.m. ET). Two 18-player rosters, handpicked by U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors and Youth National Team staff, will compete against each other with the goal of catching a few eyes to further their play.
Some recent examples of Academy players who have catapulted themselves from the Select Game into regular Youth National Team consideration are Minnesota Thunder Academy alum Jackson Yueill, who has featured regularly with the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team, and Lonestar product McKinze Gaines. Gaines is tied with Haji Wright for the most international appearances with the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team this year with 19 caps.
The Academy Winter Showcase runs in conjunction with the 2014 Nike International Friendlies, which features the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team. The USA will face England (Nov. 28), Australia (Nov. 30) and Brazil (Dec. 2) at 6 p.m. ET. All six games at the Nike International Friendlies will be streamed live on ussoccer.com. The USA matchups are preceded by a 3 p.m. ET game that includes Australia vs. Brazil (Nov. 28), Brazil vs. England (Nov. 30) and England vs. Australia (Dec. 2).
Among the many intriguing Academy Showcase matchups, on Sunday, Nov. 30, the U-18 age group features two currently unbeaten sides in the Atlantic Division-leading New York Red Bulls (8-0-2) and Northwest Division frontrunner Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11-0-0). When the U-16s open play earlier that day, one highly anticipated game includes the Northeast Division’s first-place BW Gottschee Academy (7-1-3) against Arsenal FC (8-3-2), which is currently second in the Southwest Division behind defending U-16 national champion LA Galaxy.
For the latest Development Academy results, information and more, visit academy.demosphere.com andussoccer.com’s Academy section. Follow the Academy on Twitter@ussoccer_acad, Instagram and Facebook, using the #AcademyShowcase, #OneNationOneTeam and #1N1T hashtags.