Five points after USMNT's promising victory over Turkey
JUN 01, 2014 4:08p ET
Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey scored either side of halftime to spur the U.S. national team to a 2-1 victory over Turkey at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson opened the scoring by tucking inside the far post after 26 minutes to stake the home side to the lead. Dempsey doubled the advantage seven minutes after halftime after Turkey failed to cope with Timothy Chandler’s cross and presented the Seattle forward with a simple finish at the back post. Selçuk Inan pulled a goal back from the spot in the 90th minute, but the Americans held firm to secure the victory.
The performance will provide U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann with plenty to ponder over the next few days. Expect him to consider these points as he places this match in context ahead of the date against Nigeria in Jacksonville next Saturday.
1. Consider this display as a positive step on the road to Brazil
Every component of this effort constituted a step forward from the 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Tuesday. The group, as a whole, produced the energy and the incisiveness required to punish a more expansive opponent. There were encouraging submissions in several departments, though the work clearly isn’t done yet. On the whole, this is the sort of uptick Klinsmann wanted to see from the first friendly to the second.
2. The benefits of inverted fullbacks showed on the opening goal …
Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson conspired to produce a wonderful opener and underscore the utility of playing Johnson on the right. Johnson cut inside and played a good ball to Bradley in the middle. Bradley clipped a delicate pass over the top as Johnson surged into the channel. Johnson met the feed and poked home inside the far post to stake the Americans to a lead after 26 minutes.
Klinsmann will concede some natural width if he opts to field inverted fullbacks (and Timothy Chandler operated on the left in place of DaMarcus Beasley to hint at that intent on both flanks), but he can benefit when they slice inside. It offers yet another element to an American attack still searching for more diversity. The one caveat to those positives: The overall shape must adjust accordingly to ensure those opportunities do not go to waste.
3. … but the U.S. must figure out a way to compensate for the space behind
Chandler and Johnson offered plenty of width on the overlap and presented all sorts of problems. Some of those issues came in the defensive half as the Americans attempted to adjust to those adventurous forays. The corresponding center back floated over occasionally to reduce the space allotted. Jones dropped into the hole on others. And the Turks navigated their way through into the terrain without much hindrance from time to time.
In order to cope with the threats presented at the World Cup, the rearguard must devise a way to retain the necessary solidity when Chandler (if he starts on the left) or Johnson ventures that far forward. Ceding that sort of ground to Ghana could prove quite perilous indeed. Turkey almost caught the Americans out just before the hour with a diagonal into that sort of area, but Brad Guzan – sharp in his relief stint – made a good save on Gökhan Gonül at his near post.
4. The diamond still needs a little polish
Klinsmann once again plumped for a narrow, four-man midfield. Bradley and Jones comprised the central midfield duo as usual, while Brad Davis and Graham Zusi featured on either side. The group cobbled together some nice moments in possession and posed a threat to Turkey on the whole, but it occasionally flailed around a bit to figure out the proper spacing.
Bradley and Jones permitted a bit too much space at points with Jones often stepping a bit too earnestly to pull apart the shape. Jones’ ability to recover and block on several occasions compensated well most of the time. Zusi received detailed instructions from Klinsmann in the first half about where and when to check to the ball. Davis occasionally experienced similar issues as he attempted to provide an outlet on the left. Davis and Zusi both tucked into the middle intelligently to shore up the shape defensively, though.
Those adjustments are natural for a group still trying to adjust to this sort of shape. Kyle Beckerman’s second-half arrival provided some much needed experience to help close down some of the gaps. Now it is a matter of tweaking how this group rotates and shifts on and off the ball to ensure other players can produce the same effect consistently and limit the space afforded.
5. Expect some nervous moments if the aggressive deportment sticks in Brazil
If the U.S. continues to press the initiative, then it will naturally need to find a way through to muddle through the moments when the opposition exploits the spaces created. There were some near misses and some scrapes on the day, but the American defense – even when it scrambled and even when it relied on Guzan – managed to find a way to muddle through more often than not.
This group must carry that sort of mentality through as the stakes increase. There are exchanges to make in order to pursue goals. If the U.S. is willing to accept those risks, then it must find a way – as it did on Sunday – to ensure they end up on the positive side of the ledger.