photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. — The U.S. Men’s National Team may have had to hold on late, but it is still unbeaten in its send-off series.
The U.S. edged Turkey, 2-1, in front of a sold-out crowd of 26,762 at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon in its second-to-last match before heading to Brazil for the World Cup. Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey scored on each side of halftime, but a late penalty kick from Selcuk Inan made for some nervy moments until the final whistle.
Inan converted his 90th-minute spot kick after centerback Geoff Cameron was called for a handball on the goal line, but the Americans held on for the victory in a game that saw their defense tested often by the Turks.
“It was a good game, it was quite an open game,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Based on the workload that these guys have in their legs now over the last two-and-a-half weeks, it was still a good pace, it was still a good rhythm. I think defensively first half we needed to make some corrections at halftime.
“We need to close the gaps a bit better, so we still have a lot of work on that ahead of us to become more compact, more connected between the players, making it more difficult for the opponent to come through there. But overall I think it was a nice game to watch.”
Turkey had the majority of the quality scoring chances in the opening 25 minutes, but inaccuracy in front of goal kept the proceedings level before Johnson and Dempsey struck in the 26th and 52nd minutes, respectively, to swing momentum in the U.S.’s favor.
Johnson scored his first goal for the U.S. after playing a beautiful give-and-go sequence with Michael Bradley, who collected a pass from the right back before chipping the ball over the back line. Johnson then one-timed a shot into the left corner of the net.
“He has the change of pace that can really surprise opponents and that’s what it was,” said Klinsmann of the play. “He goes into the midfield, plays a one-two basically with Michael and goes for it.”
Dempsey netted the winner and one of the easiest goals of his career following a defensive blunder by Turkey. The U.S. captain saw a ball trickle across the six-yard before and proceeding to poke it home from a foot out at the back post.
“I feel good,” said Dempsey. “I’m playing well with the club ball. It’s only been three games here and it’s always good to score.”
The Turks had more than enough opportunities to score at the beginning of the game. Inan, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Nuri Sahin all had good looks in the first 20 minutes, but were not able to beat Tim Howard. Sahin came closest, firing a shot off the outside part of the right post in the 12th minute.
As much as the U.S. struggled defensively in its 4-4-2 diamond setup in the first half, it almost took a lead through Jozy Altidore in the 15th minute. Altidore found the back of the net following a corner kick from the left, but he was deemed to have fouled his defender and the goal was waved off.
Johnson then gave the U.S. lead with his tidy finish, which helped calm the game down a bit and allowed for the Americans’ attack to begin creating its own chances.
Dempsey doubled the lead seven minutes into the second half, which saw the U.S. use its six substitutions and tweak things tactically in order to limit the looks Turkey had on goal.
“Michael a little bit deeper and we sat a little bit,” said Cameron. “We recognized that early and we knew what was going on and Jurgen made the change. I thought, overall, it was fantastic.”
While the defensive performance improved in the closing 45 minutes, a late turnover by left back Timmy Chandler led to a penalty kick being awarded to Turkey. Substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who entered the match at halftime, was not able to keep Inan’s attempt from 12 yards out from finding the back of the net despite guessing correctly.
The Americans will travel to Jacksonville, Fla. on Monday to begin preparing for their final pre-World Cup friendly vs. Nigeria on June 7.
What do you think of the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Turkey? Feeling confident about the Americans’ chances at World Cup after the performance? Who impressed you?
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