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.
Cal FC Defeats San Francisco City FC 2-1
Cal FC took its first step in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, using two second half penalty kicks from Chris Cummings and Jonathan Bravo to down San Francisco City FC Saturday afternoon at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, California.
Playing in front of a “Play-In” Round record-crowd of 1,519 at Kezar Stadium, the visitors - famous for their 2012 U.S. Open Cup run where they upset Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers - dominated most of the possession in the first half, but saw the home side with the better of the early chances.
Taking the ball in stride in the 12th minute, forward Reed Williams spun past Cal FC left back Edgar Espinoza, before slotting the ball for Chris Cummings whose low cross was well cut out by Cal FC goalkeeper Brian Hill.
Eleven minutes later, Williams got by Espinoza again, and squared his pass at the top of the area for Austin Diaz De Leon, but the former University of San Francisco midfielder saw his first-time effort go wide of goal.
Cal FC would find its first dangerous opportunity in the 30th minute when Jose Altamirano strolled up the right before cutting a pass back for Johnny Bravo, but the former LA Galaxy reservist fired his first-time shot well over goal.
The final chance of the half would be the best one as Cal FC’s Alberto Anguiano lobbed a ball for Cummings into the left corner. Cummings took his space and whipped a driven cross back to the near post where Anguiano’s header was saved with a diving effort from City FC goalkeeper Austin Harms.
The first goal of the match would come just after the break when Anguiano was played through alone on goal. The Cal FC forward jumped to push the ball past the goalkeeper and Harms took him down inside the area forcing the referee to point to the penalty spot. On the ensuing kick, Cummings stepped up and calmly slotted the ball past Harms to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute.
“That threw the whole game into a whole other speed,” said Cal FC head coach Ross Greaney. “They began attacking with a lot of numbers. That sent a wave of energy into San Francisco and they came at us.”
City FC began to take back possession and came close to the equalizer in the 70th minute when left winger George Plakorus’s cross in from the left picked out Eric Anderson whose diving header was saved by Hill.
In the 75th minute, City FC’s Jack Momeyer played a quick one-two combo with Diaz De Leon, getting into the box and firing his effort off the top of the cross bar.
The hosts would finally equalize a minute later when Plakorus put in another low, whipping cross that saw Cal FC defender Randy Mendoza misdirect his clearance into the net.
San Francisco nearly found the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute when a cross from left back Gabriel Padilla saw Hill misplay the ball, before popping for Anderson. The City FC midfielder took an ambitious bicycle kick which Hill recovered to collect.
A bit against the run of play, Cal FC would find the eventual game-winner from the penalty spot the 87th minute as Anguiano sent a cross-in that was judged to have been handled by a City FC defender. This time, Cal FC midfielder Jonathan Bravo stepped up and squeezed his penalty low, inside the right post to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Late pressure from San Francisco City FC was well sustained by Cal FC, and the referee blew the full-time whistle, sending the 2012 giant killers back into the 2015 tournament proper.
“I’m glad I have a roster full of guys with such character,” said Greaney. “We’re not the fittest, we’re not training every day – there’s a lot of obstacles to performing your best. Even in the second half when we started to wither, we pulled through. Hopefully our character will continue to help us through this tournament.”
Cal FC advances to face USL Premier Development League side Ventura County Fusion on May 13 at Ventura College Sportsplex in Ventura, California The match will hold special significance for Greaney, who served as a long-time assistant coach for the club, as well as former player Danny Barrera.
“There’s going to be a lot of familiarity – we know them a little bit and they know us a bit,” said Greaney. “It’s pretty exciting to go up against a team that you have some ties to and I think both sides are looking forward to it.”
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup “Play-In” Match Report #1
Match: Cal FC 2, San Francisco City FC 1
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015
Venue: Kezar Stadium; San Francisco, CA
CAL – Chris Cummings (penalty kick) 47 minute
SFC – own goal (Randy Mendoza) 76
CAL – Johnny Bravo (penalty kick) 87
SFC – Austin Harms (caution) 46 minute
SFC – Reed Williams (caution) 58
CAL – Danny Barrera (caution) 88
SFC – Gabriel Padilla (caution) 89
Cal FC: Bryan Hill; Conor Hearn, Jason Gallardo, Randy Mendoza, Edgar Espinoza; Jonathan Bravo, Osiris Saligan, Chris Cummings (John Lopez 74’), Danny Barrera; Alberto Anguiano, Jose Altamirano
San Francisco City FC: Austin Harms; Gabriel Padilla, Adam Ringler, Tom Montgomery, Marc Tonkel; Jack Momeyer (Tyson Crim 74), Johannes DeMarzi, Mauricio Diaz De Leon, Eric Anderson, George Plakorus; Reed Williams (Taylor Amman 77’)
Harpo’s FC Slides Past KC Athletics 2-0
In “Play-In” Match #2, Boulder, Colorado-based Harpo’s FC used second half goals from captain Dan Campbell and forward Shane Wheeler to take down the visiting KC Athletics at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Field #20 in Commerce City, Colorado.
After a spirited first half where Harpo’s controlled most of the way, Campbell put the home side ahead on the hour mark, finishing off a feed from Kyle Leutkehans.
Luetkehans would set up the second goal 10 minutes later as he played Wheeler through the KC backline before the powerful forward rounded the goalkeeper and finished into an empty net to push Harpo’s into a First Round date with Brigham Young University on May 13 in Provo, Utah.
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup “Play-In” Match Report #2
Match: KC Athletics 0, Harpo’s FC 2
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015
Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Field 20; Commerce City, CO
HAR – Daniel Campbell (Kyle Leutkehans) 60 minute
HAR – Shane Wheeler (Kyle Leutkehans) 70 minute
KC – Bobby Reiss (caution) 63 minute
KC Athletics: Steven Grow, Oran Andrews, Steven Emory, Ryan Kawoluk, Bobby Reiss, Martin Johnson (Samuel Braverman 70’), Peter Kariotis (Josh Westberg 53’), Skelly Kellar, Matt Kuhn, Josh White, Bryan Williams (Kyle Perkins 56’)
Harpo’s FC: Zac Gibbens, Frank Sawyer, Daniel Campbell (Daniel Schewe 73’), Justin Geibel, Kevin Haber, Benjamin Liames, Kyle Luetkehans, Ian Marchesci (Daniel Whittle 82’), Jose Matibag, Edgar Olivas (Corey Cullen 75’), Shane Wheeler
D.C. United will host rival Bethesda-Olney U-15/16s in a battle for the D.C. area on Saturday. Bethesda-Olney has won two of its last three games and D.C United is coming off of a 5-0 victory over Baltimore Bays Chelsea U-15/16. Donovan Pines scored a goal in the 78th minute to lead D.C. to a 1-0 win over Bethesda-Olney the last time these teams met on October 5, 2014.
Bethesda-Olney will go head-to-head with D.C. United U-17/18s on Saturday April 25 at 9 a.m. Bethesda-Olney is coming off a win over Everton FC Westchester last week, while D.C. United is unbeaten in April and in second place in the Atlantic Division.
On Saturday April 25, Chicago Magic PSG will travel to New Lenox, Illinois, for a matchup with the Mid-American division’s top-ranked team, Shattuck St. Mary’s U-17/18s. Chicago Magic PSG is fourth in the Mid-American division and Shattuck St. Mary’s is riding a six-game winning streak.
On Sunday April 26, Shattuck-St. Mary’s will take on Chicago Fire U-17/18s in a battle for the top spot in the Mid-American Division. Shattuck-St. Mary’s is currently first in the division with 2.05 pts/gp, but the Fire is not far behind with 1.94 pts/gp.
A highly competitive New Jersey Rivalry is set to take place this weekend as New York Red Bulls U-15/16s and U-17/18s face in-state and Atlantic Division rival Players Development Academy. The U-17/18s Red Bulls continue their control atop the Academy, currently claiming the top spot in the East Division and in the playoffs pool. PDA for its part is in the 18th spot of the playoff pool sitting with 1.81 pts/gp, trailing 17th-place Concorde Fire by only a 0.01 point per game differential.
In the U-15/16s age group, an even tighter race is brewing between the two sides, as NYRB are second in the Division standings and PDA is in third place. Both teams are also in a good direction to continue with post season play, with NYRB in the second spot and PDA in the 17th positon of the playoffs pool.
Finally, things are heating up in LA, as Pateadores and Chivas USA go head -to-head in both the U-15/16s and U-17/18s age group. For Chivas USA U-15/16s, the game will represent a chance to bounce back from a loss to Arsenal FC last weekend that saw the team drop its first decision since January. Currently, 19th in the playoffs pool, Chivas will need to perform well to hold on to its spot.
Pateadores U-17/18s hopes to continue riding its high following a 5-1 victory over Real So Cal last weekend, by facing Chivas on Sunday. Pateadores, who is currently in the playoffs pool sitting at number 18.