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.
The United States Soccer Federation firmly believes there is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will not speculate or comment further on this matter at this time.
As 2015 U.S. Open Cup Cinderella side Harpo’s FC was in Colorado Springs trying to extend an unthinkable run to the Third Round last Wednesday night, USASA side Chula Vista FC looked ready to take the glass slipper.
As the final whistle blew on Harpo’s 2-1 defeat at the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Chula Vista FC was in the midst of a 3-0 shellacking of USL side Arizona United SC. The Second Round win came on the heels of a 2-1 extra time victory over PDL side FC Tucson in First Round play a week before, and anointed the tournament debutantes as the new amateur darlings heading into round three on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised with our success,” said Chula Vista FC head coach Hector Diaz. “It’s a little overwhelming that it happened in our first U.S. Open Cup trip but a lot of these guys have had pressure before and been successful under that pressure. I think we rise to the challenge -- there aren’t any egos, they’re trying to take advantage of the opportunity they’ve been afforded and I like that. Hopefully we continue with the same attitude.”
Perhaps what’s most amazing about the team’s run is that the side is made up entirely of players 23 years old and under. Half the team that started the match against the pros at Arizona United were under the age of 21. Even Diaz, a former airman in the Air National Guard, is one of the youngest coaches in the tournament at just 28.
Chula Vista FC celebrates earning a berth in the Third Round of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup after defeating Arizona United on May 20.
The holder of a USSF “B” Coaching License, Diaz began his managerial career at the age of 15, working with his father, Hector, Sr. as coach of his brother Alberto’s youth squad. Keeping the core of the team together over the past 13 years, Hector has taken over the reins, culminating in their first Open Cup qualification earlier this year.
Alberto, a slight but technical former U.S. youth international and 2010 Cal South Player of the Year, shined in the team’s Second Round match against Arizona United, scoring the first and third goals and setting up teammate Angel Pinal for the second in the 3-0 rout.
“I had a big smile when he scored the first goal,” said Alberto’s big brother Hector. “I watched and saw Francisco Ramirez, who started on this team with ‘Berto when they were both six or seven years old, set him up for the goal. They’ve always been the top two players in whatever league they’ve played in and now they’re big things against a pro team in the U.S. Open Cup – it’s incredible.”
The win sets the club up for its biggest match yet, a visit north to reigning USL champions Sacramento Republic who beat Sonoma County Sol 4-2 in Second Round play last week, a team Diaz says he’s followed closely since they began last year.
“It’s hard not to notice the buzz they’ve generated,” he said. “We have a great group of guys and the same night we beat Arizona, our captain Luis Alvarado watched their game against Sonoma Sol and took notes, three hours after our game, our captain had already analyzed our opponent. He said, ‘I did half the job for you, I’m going to give you these notes. They’re real good, real dangerous on the attack. I think we can counterattack them this way, go at them that way.”
“They’re very good offensively,” Diaz continued. “The good thing is our defense I think has been the strongest. Both first halves against Tucson and Arizona were unbelievably difficult. They both pressed us and our defense was able to hold in both cases. In the second half of both games we were more offensive and released a little pressure.”
Chula Vista FC's next challenge comes in the Open Cup Third Round against reigning USL champs Sacramento Republic FC.
With just five amateur teams left in the tournament, Chula Vista FC know that if they can get past Sacramento on Wednesday, they’ll have a good chance at the tournament’s $15,000 prize for the Amateur Division team that advances the furthest.
And while Diaz admits he didn’t think his team would get this far in its first appearance, he’s also sure to point out that, despite two wins, they haven’t reached their goal in the tournament just yet.
“I keep telling the guys that we have nothing to lose and everything to win. They’re responding and starting to believe a little more and as we go the confidence is growing. We always saw the goal as being able to go up against an MLS team. I thought it would take a couple more tries to have a chance at that we’re not at our goal yet, but were hoping to get there on Wednesday.”
The winner of the match will advance to a Fourth Round date away to the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on June 16.