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.
With the 2015 slate now over for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Jurgen Klinsmann sat down with ussoccer.com for a two-part Q&A. In Part One, the MNT boss discusses the team’s accomplishments, player progression and lessons learned in 2015. Part Two of the Q&A in which Klinsmann previews the challenges and excitement of a busy 2016 calendar for the MNT will be available on ussoccer.com in the coming days.
ussoccer.com: Going into Port of Spain, Trinidad to face the Soca Warriors was a tough match. Are you pleased with how the team dealt with the challenges of that game on the road?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “I think with the game in Trinidad & Tobago, we all knew it was going to be a tricky one. It’s a good team that proved that in the Gold Cup. And away from home, there’s a rule: don’t lose. At least get one point and don’t give the home team the three points. I think we achieved that. Did we want to win both games? Yes, it would have been nice to have six points now, but four points is ideal going into the two games now with Guatemala. Winning those two games would mean that we are qualified for the next round, so our big goal for March is going to Guatemala and get three points right away, at home in Columbus, one of our favorite places to go, and then look forward to the next round.”
ussoccer.com: Throughout the first two qualifiers you were able to get a lot of young players opportunities. How valuable was it to get them that experience at this stage?
JK: “For coaches, but also for the fans, one fascinating topic is always, ‘how do young players progress? How do they learn? How fast do they learn? How fast they can make a real improvement on the senior National Team?’ When you talk about young players, we talk about DeAndre Yedlin, we talk about Gyasi Zardes. Both of them had a very busy 2015. Gyasi played 19 games for the MNT, which is pretty amazing, but the most important part there is that everybody can see a learning curve. Everybody can that they are maturing. Everybody can see that they are growing and becoming senior players. This is what this path is about, bringing younger players, give them time and give them moments where they don’t perform or have a bad game and carry them through. Teach them during this path and what they have to improve and hopefully see the benefit later on. At the end of 2015 we saw a lot of good answers from Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin and I’m sure we will see even more good stuff in the upcoming year.”
ussoccer.com: Bobby Wood finished with four goals in his last eight games. What changes have you seen in him in the last year?
JK: “With Bobby Wood, we’ve developed a player over some time. Even if he wasn’t a full part of the National Team program yet, we were in touch with him, following his path in Germany in the 2. Bundesliga. We explained to him that it’s not going to all happen in a short period of time. When he came in the first couple of times, he was shy and nervous, which is totally normal for the young players when they join the senior National Team. He had to get a feel for the thin air on the higher level. He tried to learn as quickly as he could. He developed more personality, more confidence. For a striker, confidence is always connected to scoring goals. After the first couple of games came the moment when he came on the field against Holland and in the last minute scored the winning goal for us, which was huge, not because you beat Holland in their own country, but it was huge for him that he started to believe in himself. A couple days later he scores the winning goal against Germany in Germany where he plays, which is another big confidence booster. He’s becoming used to the pressure, the expectations of scoring. The expectations for a forward are to score, not every game, but try to score every second game or at the very least every third game. This is his learning curve now and hopefully he keeps learning, keeps improving, keeps helping us and keep on going through that transition of a World Cup cycle between the two World Cups.”
ussoccer.com: In these last two games you also expanded the team’s options at key positions, including both fullback spots. What type of flexibility does this provide moving forward?
JK: “2015 made it clear that we struggled in a couple of areas. The most difficult area for us is the fullback positions. We moved the center backs to the fullback position. We moved Fabian Johnson from left back to right back, which is the position he played in the World Cup – and was probably one of the best right backs in the World Cup in Brazil last year. But he ended up in his club team in Germany playing left winger. So moving him constantly from left winger to left back or to right back, it doesn’t really help him. And for us, one question remains: how do we fill in those left back and right back positons with a high-quality solution? In the last games, we had Tim Ream helping us out as a left back. He plays center back in Fulham. We had Michael Orozco out as a right back, which he did tremendously well, but he’s playing center back for Tijuana. Hopefully in 2016 it will help us develop younger players in the fullback positions. For us, the next important team to look at is the Olympic team and see what Andi Herzog brings through that team in order to develop a younger player into that full back position for the senior team.”
ussoccer.com: A lot of people had positive things to say about Darlington Nagbe. What did you learn about him from this camp?
JK: “We found a player that is really good handling the ball in both directions. He is responsible defensively, to always go behind the ball and to defend, and help out. When we go forward, he knows when to pass, when to dribble, when to keep things racing forward, and also when to take some risks in a certain moment. He has a change of pace in one-on-one situations when he goes at defensive midfielders. He has the confidence to get past them and to get closer to the box. Darlington is a real nice option now going forward. He had to wait a long time, and we’ve been waiting for him as well, but it’s a great fit and we are glad to have him on board.”
ussoccer.com: You spoke of the importance of having Brad Guzan and Tim Howard on board for the next three years. How did the initial phase of rotation work out?
JK: “Having Tim Howard and Brad Guzan on board is huge. Both are top goalkeepers in the English Premiere League, very experienced and especially they are great teammates. We’ve got to keep them rotating toward Russia 2018. Then we’ve got to make some decisions once games come up, but having both of them gives us a huge boost of confidence and the backline feels real confident having one of them in goal.”
ussoccer.com: The challenge to younger players has been to push the established guys for starting spots. What is the importance of that process and how has it gone within the team?
JK: “When asking the younger players to step up and challenge the experienced ones, you want them to challenge themselves on a higher level, whether it’s going to the highest club level as quickly as you can and become a starter there and make your statement, like DeAndre Yedlin does now at Sunderland. In camp, we want them to fight harder to push established players for the spots, because if you want to steal the spot, you have to do more to try and move him out. This is an interesting process between two World Cups. Taking the example of Jones, he’s not ready to give his spot up. He’s 34 years old, but he’s a rock. He’s in there every time it matters, he stands his man. He makes it clear to the younger players that he’s not giving up his spot. These kind of competitions are real important with the team.”
ussoccer.com: How do you view the midfield partnership between Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones?
JK: “It’s real critical between Bradley and Jones, like all the fans know, they are important to our team. These two always coordinate themselves on the field. They are experienced and know what to do in specific situations. We constantly go over their tactical approach in a game because they can play many different ways. Now you can complement a Jermaine Jones or a Michael Bradley with a more defensive midfielder, like a Kyle Beckerman, or you can complement them with more offensive midfielders, like a Darlington Nagbe or Mix Diskerud. But the heart of this team is always in the center of the park, which is Bradley and Jones.”
ussoccer.com: What did you see from Jozy Altidore throughout 2015?
JK: “2015 for Jozy Altidore has been a transition year, but it has become a year where he has gotten stronger toward the end. He had some injury issues. He had some fitness issues in the beginning of the year. We had the episode in the Gold Cup where he was not in the shape where he needed to be. Toward July, August and September he got more into a flow. He started to score goals for Toronto and he got stronger for the National Team, as well. This is a very positive sign for us to have Altidore playing well. We plan to bring him into a very busy 2016 with the biggest highlight of Copa America next June.”
ussoccer.com: What has been your impression of the MLS playoffs?
JK: “Watching the MLS playoffs has been tremendously exciting. The games in the first round with the penalty shootout, to Portland and Kansas City, to games that were very close, very tight and hard fought. It’s been very exciting. The stadiums are packed, the fans are fully engaged and the teams battle themselves through. Sometimes you have your favorite pick then you realize after a game or two, your favorite is not there anymore and out of the playoffs. It’s at another level this year and I can’t wait to see the MLS Cup final!”
CHICAGO (Nov. 25, 2015) – U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach Michelle French has named the 20-player roster for the 2015 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, to be held from Dec. 3-13 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
The roster is made up of eight collegiate players and 12 high-school aged players who are still playing youth club soccer. The roster ranges over four birth years from 1996-1999 with the youngest player being 16-year-old defender Kiara Pickett. Players born on or after January 1, 1996, are eligible for the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup.
"While finalizing the roster for this qualifying competition posed different challenges due to the college season, we are very happy with the players we have named to the roster. We have a great mix of talent, sophistication, and athleticism at every position,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “The group is comprised of players with experience in CONCACAF competitions, as well as quite a few who will be playing matches of this magnitude for the first time. As a result, we are looking forward to watching the team grow during the tournament.”
Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Brooke Heinsohn (New England FC; Norfolk, Mass.)
DEFENDERS (7): Tierna Davidson (De Anza Force; Menlo Park; Calif.), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Shannon Horgan (Clemson; Long Beach, N.Y.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza; Calif.), Taylor Otto (CASL; Apex, N.C.), Kiara Pickett (Eagles; Santa Barbara, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Jordan Harr (Dallas Sting; Sachse, Texas), Mikaela Harvey (Texas A&M; Liberty Hill, Texas), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Parker Roberts (Kansas; Leawood, Kan.), Ella Stevens (GSA; Grayson, Ga.)
FORWARDS (4): Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Zoe Redei (Eclipse Soccer Club; Highland Park, Ill.), Ashley Sanchez (SoCal Blues; Monrovia, Calif.), Jessie Scarpa (UNC; Lakeland, Fla.)
The 2015 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship features eight nations divided into two groups of four teams. The top two finishers in each group will qualify for the tournament semifinals, with the winners of those games along with the winner of the third-place match earning berths to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea.
The competition will be played at Francisco Morazan Stadium and Olympic Stadium. The USA will play all its Group B games at Olympic Stadium and opens the tournament on Friday, Dec. 4, against Mexico (7:30 local/8:30 ET on FOX Sports 2), faces Panama on Sunday, Dec. 6 (7:30 local/8:30 ET on FOX Soccer Plus) and finishes group play against Haiti on Tuesday, Dec. 8 (7:30 local/8:30 ET on FOX Soccer Plus).
"We had the opportunity to see a number of players over the past few months, and those players certainly did a fantastic job of making the final roster decisions difficult, which is what we want to see,” said French, who saw 57 players in game action this year with the U-20s and many more during college matches this fall. “Our goal was to find the right mix of players available for selection that complemented each other on and off the field. I’m confident we have done that.”
2015 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship Group B Schedule - USA
Date Match Kickoff (CT) Venue TV
Dec. 4 USA vs. Mexico 7:30 p.m. Olympic Stadium FOX Sports 2
Dec. 6 USA vs. Panama 7:30 p.m. Olympic Stadium FOX Soccer Plus
Dec. 8 USA vs. Haiti 7:30 p.m. Olympic Stadium FOX Soccer Plus
- French, a member of the USA’s silver medal winning team at the 2000 Olympics in Australia, became head coach of this age group in February of 2013 and coached the USA to the championship of the last CONCACAF U-20 qualifying tournament in the Cayman Islands that earned the USA a trip to the last U-20 World Cup in Canada.
- Goalkeeper Rose Chandler and forward Mallory Pugh are the only two players on the roster who were on the U.S. team at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
- Pugh was a starter in all four games the USA played in Canada in 2014 and is the only player on the roster with World Cup experience.
- Six-foot-one goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn is the granddaughter of Boston Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn.
- Chandler, who is currently the back-up ‘keeper at Penn State, where she has played in five matches off the bench this year, is one of two players on the roster whose college team is still in contention in the NCAA Playoffs.
- The other is Texas A&M forward Michaela Harvey, who will join the U.S. team in Honduras upon completion of her college season.
- Of the eight college players on the roster, four are freshmen (Chandler is a red-shirt freshman) and four have played two years of college soccer in Harvey, Clemson sophomore defender Shannon Horgan, Notre Dame sophomore defender Sabrina Flores and UNC sophomore forward Jessie Scarpa.
- The freshmen are: Chandler, Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame), Parker Roberts (Kansas) and Kelcie Hedge (Washington).
- Six players on the roster were a part of the U.S. U-17 WNT that failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after falling to Mexico in penalty kicks during the semifinal at the qualifying tournament in Jamaica despite dominating the match. Those players are midfielder Marley Canales (San Diego Surf), Hedge, Jacobs, defender Taylor Otto (CASL), Pugh (Real Colorado) and forward Zoe Redei (Eclipse).
- Two players -- Chandler and Horgan -- have yet to earn a cap at the U-20 level.
- Pugh is the leading U-20 cap-winner and scorer on the roster with 14 and six respectively. Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC) and Canales have seven U-20 caps each.
- Two players are age-eligible for the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Tea in defender Kiara Pickett (5 caps for the U-17s this year) and forward Ashley Sanchez (six caps and 11 goals for the U-17s this year).
- The 20 players on the roster come from 20 different youth clubs in 13 different states. There are five players from Southern California on the roster and one from Northern California, two from Georgia and two from Texas.
- In addition to the three U.S. group matches, the FOX family of networks will air Mexico vs. Haiti on Dec. 6 (6 p.m. ET on FOX Soccer Plus) and Mexico vs. Panama on Dec. 8 (6 p.m. ET on FOX Soccer Plus).
- Both semifinals (Dec. 11 at 6 and 9 p.m. ET), the third-place match (Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. ET) and the championship match (Dec. 13 at 9 p.m. ET) will also air on FOX Sports 2.
- Host Honduras, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica are in Group A.