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USMNT to use Turkey friendly as measuring stick ahead of World Cup

Jozy Altidore

photo by Don Feria/


NEW YORK — Sixteen days are all that separate the U.S. Men’s National Team from its 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana, and the Americans are in dire need of a stiff test to gauge where they currently stand.

They should get that on Sunday.

Turkey and its overlooked-but-talented squad will lock horns with the U.S. in front of an expected sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon in a game that should serve as a measuring stick for Jurgen Klinsmann and his side.

The U.S. were victorious in their first send-off series friendly this past Tuesday, but the 2-0 win over Azerbaijan was more a match that allowed the Americans to get their feet under them after two tough weeks of training camp than one that challenged them to play at their absolute best.

Turkey is likely to do a better job of being a challenge.

“With Turkey we have a team now on a very high level, a team that almost qualified (for the World Cup), and (has) very good individual players and they will challenge us,” Klinsmann said. “We wanted to start off a little bit easy foot — we talked about that before the Azerbaijan game — and now with Turkey we really have a benchmark that gives us more insight into certain things.”

The match will also provide the Americans an opportunity to continue to fine-tune things ahead of their Group G opener against Ghana on June 16. That means it is likely Klinsmann will again deploy the same back line that posted a clean sheet against Azerbaijan, as doing so will allow the defenders to further establish chemistry.

Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and the rest of the U.S. back four may have been relatively untested this past Tuesday, but that should change against a Turkey team that looked dangerous and beat Honduras, 2-0, at RFK Stadium this past Thursday.

“We need games that really keep us on our toes,” Klinsmann said. “We need games, especially for our back line, that challenges them not to lose focus and concentration for even one moment, because otherwise you get punished and that costs you badly, especially when you go into Brazil. You have to minimize all the mistakes you can minimize. We won’t delete them. The mistakes will happen also in Brazil, but it’s just reducing them as much as possible.”

It also appears that Klinsmann will trot out the diamond midfield formation that he has used in the last two U.S. friendlies. The two changes from the Azerbaijan game that looked to be in the cards following Saturday’s open training session at Red Bull Arena is Brad Davis replacing Alejandro Bedoya on the left side and the now-healthy Clint Dempsey resuming his role up top next to Jozy Altidore after being made a late scratch Tuesday due to groin tightness.

Still, the focus is on getting the players more comfortable in a system that Klinsmann is clearly considering using at the World Cup against talented foes in Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

“That system right now, it suits a lot of our players because it is also based on their strengths,” said Klinsmann. “If you look at Michael Bradley coming out of the position of the No. 10 role, Clint up top with Jozy. Every system kind of requires different characteristics. The diamond version requires fullbacks that go down the line, if it’s a Fabian Johnson or a DaMarcus Beasley.

“You need to have players who are up for it otherwise, again, you switch the ideas. It’s good for us that we work on different (systems) and hopefully we can use them in different moments in Brazil.”

A key component of the diamond setup is Bradley playing a more advanced position than a withdrawn one. The veteran was extremely impressive playing in the attacking midfield role in the 2-2 draw vs. Mexico in April, when he scored a goal and had an assist — but he struggled a bit more against an organized Azerbaijan squad that packed numbers behind the ball.

Mixed results aside, the point of having Bradley further up the field is to allow him to dictate more of the attack while also preventing defenses from zeroing in on Dempsey and Altidore.

“Hopefully, it’s a very effective triangle there,” said Klinsmann. “Michael is a two-way player. He works defensively the same way, and he helps out. The key for us is to learn how to be connected everywhere. Defensively, when we lose the ball, get everybody behind the ball and everybody help out, and the strikers (serve) as the first line of defense for us.

“But he certainly has good qualities to kind of get into the box and finish things off. It makes it more difficult for the opponent not only to look for Clint and Jozy, (but) there’s another one coming in and maybe even a winger as well. … Michael is just improving every year and it’s a joy to watch that. This is now a huge opportunity for him as well.”

Added Altidore, who is looking to break his scoring drought against Turkey: “I think we’re starting to see more, kind of, of the full Michael Bradley. I think we saw the defensive side. I think he’s very good at winning tackles and distributing the ball. I think going forward, he’s also very good and I think people are starting to see that. It’s nice that we can kind of play a way to accommodate him and I think any time you play with more attackers it’s comfortable for any player.”

Dempsey is another player with a big opportunity to show how well he is clicking with his teammates after missing Tuesday’s win. Klinsmann said Thursday that Dempsey would start vs. Turkey, and the U.S. captain confirmed that news during the U.S.’s pre-game press conference.

“I didn’t have an injury,” said Dempsey. “It was just some tightness in my groin and I felt that it didn’t make much sense to push it in that game, but I was able to participate in full training (on Friday and Saturday) and I felt good and I look forward to the game on Sunday.”

In order for the U.S. to ease some of the concerns that fans and sections of the media have, a more convincing performance will have to be put forth against Turkey than was delivered vs. Azerbaijan. Doing that will not be easy, of course, but it will be necessary in order to show that the Americans are ready for the tough group games that they will play in Brazil.

“I think it’s a bit of an unknown Turkey, but I’ve played there and they have very good technical players,” Altidore said. “They combine well, they like to go through the middle, they’re also good on the counter, they have some quickness. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy game at all.”

At this point in the process of the road to Brazil, that’s more than a good thing.


  1. Just watched the Azer friendly again to take a closer look at some of the play away from the ball and defense. Jones ran his butt off. Zuzi looked solid. Bradley seemed off his game, passes a little late or off line (made me wonder if the turf was choppy or the wind was so hard it was affecting the roll). I like the energy and confidence of the kids…Mix, Aaron, Wondo (no kid but a newbie to WC play). Bedoyan flew into attack mode. My real doubts are about the oldies starting with Clint and Jozy — as much as I like them and cheered for them in the past. But having watched the MNT for 20 years, it’s nice to be able to argue about who has the best chance of doing the scoring instead of whether the US will score at all. Don’t know if the US will come out of group play, but I have a strong hunch we will stun either Portugal or Germany.

    • The wind played more of a role than the grass. In the past, the field conditions at the Stick were awful, but that playing field is pristine to the touch nowadays.

  2. They did not play well against Azerbajian … Yet the dominated possession, had a big edge in corners, possibly could have had 2 more goals, played 7or 8 subs and only got stronger. No Landon, Clint or Holden and they won 2-0. As one who can remember some of the early 90’s teams that played with 9 players behind the ball the complaining represents progress.

    • How far we’ve come since they … not only are WE expected to WIN, but win playing like Spain, and maybe WE should.

      The world still treats US(A) like a fledgling, but we are now a “BIG footballing nation”, were just too close to see it … the parallax view.

      If you’ve observe the development of the game from the Gansler era ‘till now … you will have some perspective.

  3. What I have observer , thus far … Jozy is not scoring?
    … because he is drifting to the right touch line during games. He needs to place his cheeks in or around the 18 and stay there, never going more that 10 yards beyond each upright, unless he has to in support of the team.

    I hope they know that, WE support them fully, without reservation. They are OUR National Team!!!

    • Yeah that’s a terrible idea. With no wide midfield players in the diamond, if Jozy isn’t running the channels, there’s no space for anyone else.

  4. I’m just now watching the Azerbaijan friendly and it’s difficult to watch because the U.S. is playing so bad. I don’t know what game other people were watching that they thought the U.S. did so well. A good team is going to easily beat the U.S.

    If the U.S. play like this in Brazil it’s 3 and out.

    • Meh. Remember they killed themselves in training for days, and came up against an opponent playing the 10-1-0 formation and wind like a hurricane.

      • …spot on
        also, to my recollection, the game immediately following every camp has always been poor.

        Turkey will be a challenge. I don’t think they have lost a game on their tour thus far.

    • Not at kickoff. Nobody seems to be able to figure out that traffic comes to complete halt in Harrison on gamedays. Leave an hour earlier than you think you need, folks!

  5. All I know is that the injury bug is out in full effect and wouldn’t be surprised if a player gets injured against turkey

    • And if we have another lackluster outing with the starters? Will JK “tweek” the lineup for the final outing?

      One would think that if this was truly a measuring stick, the result might actually drive some change?

      I want to see Green, Beckerman, Mix and Aron on the field at some point. I don’t want to hear anymore talk about hard work and great hold up play… We need goals and Im tired of the spin

  6. I might be alone in not wanting to see the diamond midfield against the teams we’re facing.

    Against Ghana, it might work if we can find a way to bi-pass the midfield, which is Ghana’s not-so-secret weapon, but making the game too wide open against them is far from ideal. Against Portugal, I want everything locked down defensively. A wide open game with Ronaldo will sink us. And of course, Germany, a 4-2-3-1 is my preference.

    So, in summation, I don’t think we should spend all of our sendoff games playing a formation that might bite us in the ass against major opposition. Michael Bradley still finds ways to get forward when playing a more (I think) natural role as more of a CM. Let Dempsey play the withdrawn role, playing fast and loose with the big boys is inviting trouble in a group we can ill afford to do so.

    • Does that mean you’re leaving? But Baptista never even got to say goodbye!

      Beat it doosh. Chris doesn’t need a yes-man. Just leave.

  7. Really good article, Franco.

    I think this 442 diamond is for real. It gets JK’s spine guys into the actual spine of the formation. It’s the ideal formation if we are trying to get the best from our pool of 23, so I think that JK must have had this set up in mind for the WC, and not the 4231, 433, or 442 flat. That said, the formation is just a reflection of the way he wants these guys to play. His approach isn’t looking very pragmatic to me, considering our deadly group, but the idea of getting out of the group isn’t very practical either, so rather than park the bus and try to rely on set pieces, I’d rather us try to play fluid, attacking, beautiful soccer. There have been some growing pains, but I’ve seen a spark here or there that makes me think we could catch fire, and surprise some people.

    I’m feeling pretty positive about the USMNT right now, so I’ll go ahead and predict a 3 – 0 win vs Turkey tomorrow.

  8. Going to my first USMNT game tomorrow, super excited. Forget tactics, I want to see Michael Bradley ride a trusty steed (California Chrome) into Red Bull Arena with an American flag draped over his shoulders while his head glimmers like a beacon of hope from the Statue of Liberty, bringing freedom into the stadium like a flock of 100 bald eagles. I want to see Jermaine Jones dropkick our enemies in the name of Lady Liberty, while Kyle Beckerman runs along the sidelines in an Uncle Same costume with his dreads dyed red, white, and blue. Seriously though, if we could get a clean sheet, Jozy could score, and Bradley/Jones could look like they read each others minds… freedom will ring.

    • EDIT:

      From – “…bringing freedom into the stadium like a flock of 100 bald eagles.”

      To – “bringing freedom into the stadium alongside a flock of 100 bald eagles.”

      Congrats on going to your first USMNT game! I’ve only been able to go to one game, because of being broke and living in the wrong parts of the country, and even though it was a meaningless ’07 friendly, it’s one of my favorite memories. I hope something special happens in the game for ya, like a Jozy hat trick!

    • + Everything. Be 100 Bald Eagles if you can figure a way. Congrats. Nobody forgets the first time (nor anytime thereafter). Have a blast!

    • Much thanks AMP and Ali Dia, I only started following US soccer after the last world cup but I’ve watched every single WCQ and friendly for the past 2-3 years so I’m glad I’ll finally have the chance to see the USMNT in person, and if Jozy Altidore scores a hat trick I will probably drive to Philadelphia to ring the liberty bell myself.

    • Azerbaijan was my first as well, and I’ve been following since 2002. Not the best overall game to see, but I had a great view of both goals. Davis’ cross to Johannson is burned into my memory. Have fun!

    • Nuri Sahin is on the roster, but did not play against HON. Pretty sure Arda is still nursing the injury, and it would not make any sense for him to risk an aggrevation. I have no idea where B. Yilmaz is.

  9. Davis is an odd start to me. Maybe I’m just stuck on his age… and speed… or lack of speed, but maybe Jurgen really likes his set pieces. Seems to me that, for all the attack minded speech, set pieces will play a big role for us. Davis in the game early on gives us a chance to go ahead earlier than usual…?

    I’m reaching there, still think Bedoya should start. But maybe its just a matter of resting Bedoya and rewarding Davis for the last performance.

    I’m also nervous about the diamond as our default and agree with Ives about the 4-2-3-1 being our best bet.

    • I am not some big Davis fan by any means, I don’t think he should start, but he does provide a lot more than set-pieces. His positioning is great, and he provides the best service from the left side of the field. He can help us keep possession a little better than Bedoya, in my opinion, and can flip the attack to the other side of the field much easier.

    • I was a serious detractor of Davis, first making the 30, then what may have been pushing Donovan out of the 23. I get what Jurgen is trying to do with Davis and in that LMC role he doesn’t have to do a ton of sprinting, needs to motor, speed would be nice but not essential. I dangerous left foot will be key to engaging jozy, and Clint to clean up, Beasley can speed the wing.

      This will engage the left wing. Similar in the right with zusi/FJ. Both wings and jones can connect with Bradley if there is space and we can move through the middle. If clogged in the middle, like against Azerbaijan, then you lob balls into the 12. This is the last option of attack, and in jurgens estimation, will only be sparingly used because of the quality of teams we are facing… At the biggest stage… Will be pushing the field, not countering the lowely USA.

      To get out the group would be a huge win for our country, and brad helps that cause… In the GROUP. Depending on what we get in the future knockout stages, over players (uhum, Donovan) are a better option to open up the pitch, counter, fight for wins, and generally provide the fearlessness. We would also trot out a different formation 4-2-3-1.

      Defensively, well that’s a whole other story. Cross your fingers.

      Brad Davis has a unique skill set that makes sense for this team in the group stage of death and hopefully beyond.

      • Agreed, count me in that group that wasn’t a fan, has come to like him more.
        My concern if he starts, is that he’s starting on the same side as Beasley. I’d probably have less anxiety about it if Chandler or Fabian (not gonna happen) was behind him.
        At the same time, I’d have less anxiety about Beasley with Ale in front of him. I’m guessing I’m not alone..

      • That’s a good call… Depending on who is in form heading to Brazil, we could see a chandler/Davis or Beas/bedoya pairing. You don’t lose much with chandler/bedoya.

    • I much agree Quaker Otis, About the set pieces.
      I am also somewhat concerned about the defending of set pieces,
      as much as they may generate offense and solid scoring opportunities through them.
      I do agree Davis, has a wicked fast and low curving cross that elicits a dangerous ball that somebody can get to and challenges defenders to deal with.

    • We will be on the back foot vs. Germany and Portugal. Set pieces and counters will be how we get our goals. It makes a lot of sense to have Davis a part of your squad since he is a set piece specialist. I would like him to start vs Turkey because we need to see what he is capable of vs a higher quality opponent.

    • I’m not a fan of Davis making the team, but Klinsy chose him so why not give him a chance? Davis may have to start at some point due to injury or cards. I think I will be disappointed after seeing Davis play from the start. But if Klinsy thinks Davis is good enough to make the 23, prove it.

    • Agree at being nervous about the diamond. The success MB had vs Mexico was only because of their 3 man midfield. Once Herrera adjusted at the half, MB was totally shutdown as was our attack and we were lucky to hold Mexico to that draw.

    • Quaker, dont throw your TV out the window on the Davis start – ha ha ( I think that was the potential consequences of a Davis start from a previous post). Although I was totally in agreement. It still baffles me, but Davis did show fairly well last game. I hope that form continues. Time to support those that can take the field. I will gladly accept being wrong about Davis if he can help us advance.

  10. Are we seriously looking into to starting B Davis during the WC. JK continues to mystify me with some of his decisions, in JK we trust.

  11. I think who ever came up with these friends was brilliant. Why you ask? I’ll tell you my theory.. Azerbaijan played Portugal last year and we’re only beaten 2-0. Turkey to me plays in similar roles as does Germany and lastly Nigeria plays similar to Ghana. Anyone agree with me ? This was well planned

    • It’s about as close as you can get to our competition. And remember that closed-door Belgium scrimmage just before the cup starts. I don’t think we’ll lack for preparation.

    • Not to mention the similar climate between Stanford and our training HQ down south, and the travel distances required between our tuneup games, and having the last two friendlies in hot and humid coastal cities. Other than the first one being in San Fran I would say this was expertly planned out.

      And… I don’t mind the Azerbaijan friendly. They were an excellent defensive squad through qualifiers so it gave us some real practice for when we go down early and need to attack a team playing 10 men behind the ball.


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