United States vs. Turkey: 6 Things We Learned
The United States men's national soccer team defeated Turkey, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena in its second tune-up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In the victory, the Yanks delivered a few moments of brilliance, including Michael Bradley's pass on Fabian Johnson's goal in the 26th minute.
However, there were also some hiccups on the defensive end that left reason for concern heading into Saturday's clash with Nigeria in Jacksonville and, more importantly, Group G at the World Cup.
Here is a look at the six biggest takeaways from the match, as the United States inches closer to the trip to Brazil.
It's Time to Stop Criticizing Jozy Altidore's Play
Jozy Altidore may not have scored his first goal for the United States since October 11, but he did do plenty of other things right.
Altidore's holdup play near the right edge of the box in the 25th minute allowed his teammates to maintain possession. That play resulted in the ball getting passed back to Johnson, who finished off the give-and-go move with Bradley for the first goal.
On many other occasions throughout the game, Altidore used his physical presence to disrupt the Turkey back four, which led to praise from both managers after the match.
"He's a very powerful striker, the type of striker that the center backs don't like much. He's a very important player," Turkey head coach Fatih Terim said through a translator.
"We all wish obviously that he puts the ball into the back of the net. Overall, he gave a very energetic performance. He keeps the whole back line busy," United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann said.
"I thought he played well today. He's a handful for any team to deal with, and you see today he created some good chances and just was unlucky not to score."
There Will Be Alterations to the Formation During the Game
The United States may have started the game in the diamond formation, but as the game progressed, Michael Bradley continued to drop deeper into the defensive part of the midfield.
The adjustment was supposed to be done throughout the game, per Klinsmann, but it didn't actually take shape until the second half, when Kyle Beckerman entered the fray in place of Jermaine Jones.
"Our problem was in the first half the defensive understanding in defensive midfield. What we needed to do early was drop Michael Bradley next to [Jones] to make it defensively a flat four [in midfield]," Klinsmann said. "Use the diamond going forward. Use the flat four defensive-wise and shifting-wise. That way we always have one attacking midfielder as a plus next to Jermaine."
If this continues, expect the American midfielders to provide more help to a back line that is still finding its feet in front of Tim Howard.
Fabian Johnson's Role Is Going to Continue to Grow
Fabian Johnson made a great case for himself Sunday by being a force on both sides of the ball.
His movement on his 26th-minute goal cannot go unnoticed, as he read Bradley's mind to perfection after handing him the ball.
Without his darting run through the center of Turkey's defense, Bradley's excellent chip could've ended up as a wasted opportunity.
"[Fabian] has the change of pace that can really surprise opponents," Klinsmann said.
On defense, Johnson did not seem like he had many difficulties with the Turkish wingers, but one thing he has to be aware of is getting back on the counter.
On a few plays early in the first half, Jones had to track back to the right to cover for Johnson in case of a Turkish threat.
One thing Klinsmann should look to exploit in opponents is Johnson's versatility, which he praised after the match:
"Fabian is very difficult to read for every opponent, so for us, it's obviously a big plus to have him. He's versatile, he can play in midfield in the same role, the other side the same."
Timmy Chandler Needs Some Work at Left Back
The one massive hole in the American defense against Turkey was Timmy Chandler at left back.
While his offensive abilities may be applauded, his defensive lapses outweighed whatever contributions he made moving forward.
There were countless times in the first half where Chandler tucked in to the center of the pitch and allowed Turkey's wingers space to cross the ball into the box.
If he can avoid those mistakes in the future, Chandler will end up being a strong asset to the American back four, but there are still some flaws in his game.
In Klinsmann's mind, it is only a matter of time before Chandler gets up to full speed with the rest of the back four:
"For him it's important to get a little bit of rhythm and get a better understanding with the center backs. The best way for a player to work on it is to get out on the field and play a real match."
Brad Davis' Work Rate Will Earn Him More Playing Time
Brad Davis was handed a start on the left wing in favor of Alejandro Bedoya after his strong second half against Azerbaijan.
While Davis may not have provided set-piece magic against Turkey, he certainly impressed many people with his tremendous work rate on both sides of the ball.
Davis was able to track back when needed on the defensive side of the ball, which put him miles ahead of Julian Green and Mix Diskerud, who both came on in the second half but only contributed a ton in attack.
The Houston Dynamo midfielder is someone who has always had a terrific work rate, so this should come as no surprise to those who follow Major League Soccer on a consistent basis.
Julian Green Could Provide an Extra Spark off the Bench
Julian Green was handed 26 minutes on the pitch at Red Bull Arena, and in that time, he showed spurts of the player he could be, just like he did in the April 2 friendly against Mexico.
Another similarity to the Mexico game was that Green drew what seemed to be a penalty late in the match, but it was not called by Tunisian referee Slim Jedidi.
"He's getting there to take people on. He drew a clear penalty again, like he did against Mexico," Klinsmann said.
Although his appearance against Turkey is a small sample size to the American fans, Klinsmann has noted that the 18-year-old has done better in training:
"He has his sparks. We see that now in training. For him the workload we did the first few weeks was a lot for [him]. In every session he gets fresher and fresher, and his body language gets stronger."
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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