HARRISON, NJ -- The United States made it two wins from two in preparation for the World Cup, with a 2-1 victory over Turkey at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Following a solid but uninspiring win over Azerbaijan, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side faced a step up in quality against Turkey and respond with a world-class assist from Michael Bradley and similarly impressive finish from Fabian Johnson to go in front in an action-packed opening half. The match was a little too exciting for Klinsmann, who made adjustments to improve the balance of his side at the break. Still, Clint Dempsey, who had missed the match with Azerbaijan through injury, showed his scoring instincts by adding a second seven minutes into the second period with a scrappy close-range finish.
Turkey took some of the shimmer off the score line with a late penalty from Selcuk Inan after Geoff Cameron handled on the line owing to an error from Timmy Chandler, struggling out of position at left-back. Despite Chandler’s problems and the difficulties balancing the midfield, Klinsmann remained positive looking forward to the opening match in Brazil against Ghana in just over two weeks time.
“Overall I think it was a good game, quite open game,” he said in his post-match press conference. “Based on the workload that these guys have in their legs now over the last three and a half weeks, it was a good pace, good rhythm. Wonderful crowd, great support, everyone is getting more and more excited about the World Cup.”
From the outset the match was an open one with the U.S. playing with greater verve going forward than against Azerbaijan. Admittedly they were helped by Turkey’s much higher defensive line, which allowed early balls to regularly be played through for Jozy Altidore and strike partner Clint Dempsey.
With Bradley supporting his front two at every opportunity as part of the diamond midfield, the U.S. had plenty of numbers going forward. The end-to-end nature of the opening half was epitomized in a few seconds midway through the period when first Howard saved from Mevlut Erdinic before the U.S. steamed forward at the other end and good play between Bradley and Altidore culminated with the Toronto midfielder having a side-footed effort cleared off the line.
But just minutes later, more good combination play involving Bradley was to culminate in the U.S. going in front. Johnson laid the ball inside to Bradley and set off on a storming run into the box that was found brilliantly by Bradley’s chipped pass. The impressive full-back still had much to do, but finished clinically with a stylish low volley.
The lead could well have been doubled before the break, with Dempsey going through on goal, but being denied a penalty from the referee and then seeing his subsequent shot saved.
While making them a regular threat going forward, the Yanks' attacking diamond midfield also meant Jermaine Jones was often left isolated in the holding midfield role as Turkey broke forward in numbers. Galatasaray’s Inan was causing particular problems breaking forward. And he should have put Turkey in front in the 20th minute when his run was left unchecked, but on the stretch he volleyed wide from just six yards. It is hard to envisage the U.S. getting away with being so open when it comes to the real business against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
“I think defensively, especially first half, we needed to make some corrections at half time,” Klinsmann said afterward. “We needed to close the gaps a bit better. So we still have work ahead of us. Our problem was the defensive understanding in defensive midfield. What we needed to do earlier was dropping Michael Bradley, use a diamond going forward and make it a flat four defensive wise.”
With Bradley dropping deeper alongside Kyle Beckerman, who replaced Jones at the interval, there was more solidity about the play of Klinsmann’s side after the break. Dempsey also dropped back to support his midfield. Yet, the captain still got forward to be in the right place at the right time to double his side’s lead.
Brad Davis, who took his chance to impress starting on the left of midfield, combined well with Chandler, whose cross was met by a bungled clearance by Turkish defender Hakan Balta, allowing Dempsey to prod in from just a couple of yards out.
There continued to be frustrations for Dempsey’s forward partner Altidore, however. A goal chalked off for a push on the goalkeeper in the opening half, another chance halted for a foul in the second and a good save from Tolga Zengin after impressive work from Altidore means the Sunderland striker has now gone six internationals without a goal. Klinsmann remains unconcerned by Altidore's failure to hit the back of the net.
“He had his opportunities today, he had his chances," Klinsmann said. "We wait for it. I wouldn’t mind if the goal came against Ghana. Sooner or later he will break through with goals.”
Although the U.S., who play their final warm up match against Nigeria next Saturday, had a better defensive shape in the second half, Chandler’s struggles at left-back ensured that Turkey still had chances. Gokhan Gonul got in behind the orthodox right-back and it required a smart stop from Brad Guzan, on for Howard in the second half, to keep the midfielder’s effort at bay.
Chandler didn’t escape so fortunately in the final minute. After allowing Mustafa Pektemek to steal the ball off him on the edge of the box, he then allowed the substitute a free shot at goal, which struck the hand of Cameron on the line having beaten Howard. Inan converted, but the U.S. remained positive, although still very much a work in progress.