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.
Academy Coaches Soak in U-17 MNT Methodology: The Southeast region of the Development Academy had the invaluable opportunity to spend a full day with the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team and head coach Richie Williams. The connection from the Academy to the Youth National Team system and senior National Team is a continual point of emphasis, and the response for this opportunity was strong. There were 42 coaches and scouts on hand, representing nearly every Academy club in that region.
U-14 Academy Regionals: Central Players Get Taste of Elite Environment: The Development Academy’s U-14 Central Regional event wrapped up Oct. 26 at Grand Sports Park in Westfield, Indiana, providing a highly competitive environment for the players and teams on hand. ussoccer.com had the opportunity to speak with Sockers FC’s Tim Bielic and the Chicago Fire’s Nick Fernandez on the event, as well as their experience at the preceding U.S. U-14 Boys’ National Team camp. Two more regional showcases are on the horizon, with the East Regional from Nov. 8-9 in Advance, North Carolina, and the West Regional from Nov. 15-16 at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Carson, California.
Window Closing for Full-Time Player Adds: A reminder to all Academy clubs: This Friday, Oct. 31, is the last day to add any full-time players before this first window ends. Please send all requests to Nery Amaya at email@example.com.
For the latest Development Academy news, follow us on Twitter @ussoccer_acad and Instagram, or like us on Facebook. Share your Academy news, comments, photos, links and more using the #OpportunityKnocks hashtag.
ACADEMY QUICK HITS (Weekend of Oct. 25-26):
- West Conference: The San Jose Earthquakes swept its set against Northwest Division rival Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday. San Jose’s Theo Huxham scored two goals – one in each half – to lead the U-16 team to a 2-0 victory to help the team improve to 5-1-1 on the season. The Earthquakes U-18s moved to 6-0-1 with a 2-1 win against Seattle. Yousef Diyab scored two goals in the opening 20 minutes and held on for the win despite a 90th-minute Sounders goal from Sean Bowman.
- Central Conference: In the Frontier Division, the Dallas Texans U-16 team moved into second place with a 1-0 victory against the third-place Colorado Rush on Sunday. Malik Key scored the game’s only goal in the fifth minute. He now has four goals this season, tying for the team lead with Jesus Varela. Both plays scored a goal during Saturday’s 3-2 win against Real Colorado. The Texans have now won three straight to move to 6-1-0 (2.57 points per game).
- East Conference: In a crossover matchup, the Northeast Division’s Oakwood Soccer Club had a standout performance at both the U-16 and U-18 age groups, earning identical 3-1 victories against Atlantic Division side D.C. United on Sunday. Brandon Garland recorded a brace and Simon Becher added a goal to lead the U-16s, who have now won back-to-back games after recording one win in its first seven matches. DeAndre Brown’s two second-half goals led Oakwood’s U-18s past D.C. United. Danny Griffin contributed a first-half tally for the U-18 team (5-2-2, 1.89 points per game).
Stat of the Week: The Academy U-14 Central Regional event included 39 games and featured 97 goals and 10 draws.
- Academy Player of the Week: Oakwood’s Brandon Garland earned Academy Player of the Week after posting two goals in each of his team’s victories against Richmond United and D.C. United over the Oct. 25-26 weekend. He now leads Oakwood’s U-16 squad with five goals this season.
- Academy Referee of the Week: Matt Printup, a Grade 7 referee from Minnesota, was named Referee of the Week for his work during the U-18 match between the Minnesota Thunder Academy and Crew Soccer Academy. Printup has been working Academy matches since 2012, and also has experience in the North American Soccer League and PDL.
For all Development Academy results, standings and more, visit academy.demosphere.com or click on the following links:
Academy Alumni: Pfeffer Notches First MLS Goal: Philadelphia Union midfielder and FC DELCO alum Zach Pfeffer scored his first Major League Soccer goal during the Union’s finale on Sunday against the Columbus Crew. Pfeffer, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team’s leading goal scorer in international competition, made five MLS appearances after spending 2013 on loan at Hoffenheim. Elsewhere, Internationals alum and Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe scored his first goal of the 2014 season to lead Portland to a 2-0 win against FC Dallas.
UPCOMING ACADEMY SCHEDULE:
- The Nov. 1-2 Academy weekend, the ninth of the 2014-15 season, features 123 games – 47 at the U-14 age group and a combined 76 games at the U-16 and U-18 age groups.
- 2014-15 Academy Schedule page
- The Guardian: DeAndre Yedlin: How to Make it in America
- Columbus Crew: Wil Trapp Aims to Bring Title to Columbus
- Houston Dynamo: Academy U-14’s Marcelo Palomino Chats About First National Team Camp
- LA Galaxy: Jaime Villarreal Names Galaxy Academy Player of the Year
- New England Revolution: Herivaux Named Revolution Academy Youth Player of the Year
- New England Revolution: Academy Teams go Unbeaten in Five Games
- New York Red Bulls: Academy U-14s Earn Win Against Philadelphia Union
- Orlando City: Lonestar Alum Harrison Heath Signs
- mlssoccer.com: Wil Trapp: Last-Gasp Win Shows Columbus Crew’s ‘Resilience’
- mlssoccer.com: Gyasi Zardes’ First Impression in MLS
Watch highlights from the first of three regional showcases in the Development Academy’s U-14 age group. Teams from the central region showcased their talents Oct. 25-26 at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana.