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.
PLYMOUTH, England – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team fell to England’s Under-20s 2-1 Sunday afternoon in front of 11,406 fans at Home Park in Plymouth, England. The matched capped off a week-long camp as the U-20 MNT continues preparation for this summer’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
England built a two-goal lead behind goals from John Swift and Kwame Thomas before U.S. forward Maki Tall scored his first international goal for the USA late in the match that featured the U.S. debuts for defender Desevio Payne, midfielder Ethan Sonis, and Tall.
The game began under a driving rain with neither side threatening for the opening 20 minutes. The U.S. had the first chance when Paul Arriola was able to spring Maki Tall down the right side from near midfield. Tall advanced the ball into the box and let go of a shot toward the near post but was denied by a great save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 20th minute.
England responded immediately. Captain Matty Grimes ripped a low shot from just inside the box that U.S. goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell stretched out to his left to tip away. Minutes later, Grimes tested Caldwell from about 22 yards, but the U.S. ‘keeper did well to handle the curling, left-footed shot.
Forty-three minutes in, U.S. forwards Rubio Rubin and Bradford Jamieson combined near midfield to get out of pressure, sending Jamieson down the center only to be fouled outside the arc. Rubin took the freekick but could not get it to dip quick enough as it went just over the crossbar.
England took the lead right before the half. Winger Moses Odubajo took a ball down the right side and sent a cross in to the area where an unmarked John Swift collected and shot past Caldwell.
England doubled the lead in the 68th minute on a nice play from the left side as Harry Tofollo linked up with Swift who passed to Kwame Thomas at the top of the six. Thomas re-directed the ball past Caldwell as defenders attempted to block the shot.
The U.S. got one back five minutes later when Rubin beat his man on the left endline near the goal. His cross came back to the top of the six to Joel Sonora who mishit a shot. The ball went to the far post where Maki Tall slid down to shoot past the last defender for his first goal.
The U.S. U-20 MNT will next gather for an Austria-based camp in April that will feature friendlies against Qatar and Croatia.
-U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team vs. England U-20 Men’s National Team
Date: March 29, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Home Park; Plymouth, Devon, UK
Kickoff: 10 a.m. ET (3 p.m. Local)
Weather: 48 degrees; Rainy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
ENG 1 1 2
ENG – John Swift (Moses Odubajo) 44th minute
ENG – Kwame Thomas (John Swift) 68
USA – Maki Tall (Joel Sonora) 74
USA: 12-Jeff Caldwell, 2-Shaq Moore, 4- Desevio Payne (14-Conor Donovan, 75), 5-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 3-John Requejo; 6-Russell Canouse (15-Ethan Sonis, 78), 7-Paul Arriola (17-Joel Sonora, 61), 11-Marky Delgado; 10-Maki Tall (16-Boxi Yomba, 78), 9-Rubio Rubin (capt.; 23-Lynden Gooch, 75), 8-Bradford Jamieson IV (21-Tommy Thompson, 46)
Substitutions Not Used: 22-Thomas Olsen, 18-Andrija Novakovic.
Head coach: Tab Ramos
ENG: 13-Jordan Pickford, 4-Dominic Ball, 12-Harry Tofollo, 16-Jack Stephens, 17-Jordan Turnbull; 2-Moses Odubjo (10-Callum Robinson, 70), 7-Matty Grimes (capt.), 15-Harrison Reed, 19-John Swift (14-Jamie Hanson, 89), 20-Alex Mowatt (9-Chuba Akpom, 80), 18-Kwami Thomas
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Christian Walton, 3-Kortney Hause, 5-Dominic Iorfa, 6-Bailey Cargill, 8-Lewis Baker, 9-Chuba Akpom, 11-Jack Barmby.
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Stats Summary: USA / ENG
Shots: 6 / 8
Shots on Goal: 5 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 6 / 6
Offside: 1 / 1
ENG – Jack Stephens (caution) 81st minute
USA – Dembakwi Yomba (caution) 82
Referee: Steve Martin (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Mark Russell (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Antony Coggins (ENG)
Fourth Official: Adam Hopkins (ENG)