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.
In the final set of regular-season games before the 2014 Academy Winter Showcase in Florida, some interesting derby matchups are on the horizon among each region this Nov. 22-23 weekend.
In the Central Conference, the biggest derby clash is between St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri and SLSG Metro on Sunday at the U-16 age group. SLSG Missouri is second in the Mid-America Division (7-2-2, 2.09 points per game) and SLSG Metro is fourth (5-3-2, 1.70 points per game). Clayton Pearson leads Metro with eight goals in 10 games, most notably posting a hat trick during the team’s 3-0 victory against Vardar on Nov. 1. He will go up against SLSG Missouri’s defense, which has allowed only 10 goals in 11 games, which is tied for the best ratio in the division with first-place Crew Soccer Academy Wolves.
In the West, a good Los Angeles-area matchup is on tap at both of the older age groups with the LA Galaxy hosting Real So Cal on Saturday at StubHub Center. At the U-18s, the LA Galaxy is atop the Southwest Division at 7-1-2 (2.30 points per game) and Real So Cal is in third at 7-4-2 (1.77 points per game). Adrian Vera leads the Galaxy with 12 goals, tied for third in the Academy at the U-18 age group. Real So Cal’s Spencer Held is coming off a two-goal game against FC Golden State to up his season total to nine goals. The picture is eerily similar at the U-16 age group with the Galaxy atop the division (6-1-3, 2.10 points per game) and Real So Cal in third (7-4-2, 1.77 points per game).
In the East, a North Carolina derby this Sunday features a pair of U-18 sides currently duking it out in the middle of the Southeast Division standings. The North Carolina Fusion, which is sixth with a 5-6-2 record and 1.31 points per game, hosts seventh-place Charlotte Soccer Academy (3-4-4, 1.18 points per game). The Fusion had a strong October with four wins, but November has been a tough month with two one-goal losses, two draws and a win. Charlotte Soccer Academy, on the other hand, has had a good November with back-to-back shutout victories over the Nov. 15-16 weekend.
For the latest Development Academy results, visit academy.demosphere.com.
CHICAGO (Nov. 21, 2014) – The schedule for the 2014 Development Academy Winter Showcase has been finalized for the upcoming event that takes place Nov. 29-Dec. 3 at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
Academy teams at the U-16 and U-18 age groups will take part in three competitive matches over this stretch against out-of-conference opponents and in an environment that includes the U.S. Scouting Network’s presence and evaluations at every match.
The U-18 games take place Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, and U-16 games kick off Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 3. The event also features a Development Academy Select match on Thursday, Dec. 1, showcasing players handpicked by U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors and Youth National Team staff.
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).
For the latest Development Academy results and information, visit academy.demosphere.com.