Preview: USA v Turkey

Anecdotally, it appears many fans were unimpressed by the U.S.’s 2–0 victory over Azerbaijan. The scoreline was too low, the play anemic. The wrong players had been called up and they were the ones that started. In short, everything is horrible and we’re all going to die.

Too harsh? Perhaps your own view of the game was more nuanced? If so, then kudos.

But, whether you’re a doom-and-gloomer or an always-on-on-the-bright-sider, it’s clear that the U.S. is not yet firing on all cylinders. Whether it be non-scoring striker Jozy Altidore continuing to not-score, or Omar Gonzalez showing us why he’s lost his starting spot, there were several areas where the U.S. needs to improve if it wants to do well in Brazil.

That said, there were some bright spots, too.

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Brad Davis: This one is kind of a shocker. Davis has been a star in MLS for years, but has never performed with any consistently real distinction for the national team. So, his inclusion in the squad raised some eyebrows. Sure, his dead ball skills were useful, but was that enough to earn a roster spot over people like Clay Goodson or Michael Parkhurst, or Brad Evans? Not to mention Landon Donovan. But against Azerbaijan, Davis’s all-around game really shone. His service led directly to both U.S. goals, but he also showed some chemistry with Altidore on the wing, and was dangerous from the moment he came on. More of that, please.

Aron Johannsson: While Johannsson will never have a freer header, he managed something that Altidore did not — to score. His movement and touch are top-notch, and while he finished the Dutch season somewhat cooler than he started it, he is much more in form than the incumbent. Now, Johannsson and Altidore do not replicate each other’s games, and Johannsson has said he only plays as the lone striker in Holland because no one plays defense there. But, if it’s a choice between starting Altidore and Wondolowski or Altidore and Johannsson, the choice is clear, even with Wondo’s decent showing against Azerbaijan.

Mix Diskerud: Diskerud came on against Azerbaijan and was dangerous immediately. As he had in the Gold Cup last summer, he was always positive, always looking to move forward and create. That’s something the U.S. was lacking before his introduction.

Fabian Johnson at right back: Johnson was very, very good against Azerbaijan. Long may it continue.

Clint Dempsey: Held out of the last game as a precaution, Deuce is fit to start. He needs to, so that he and Michael Bradley can get as many reps together as possible before the important games begin.

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Poor finishing: Wondolowski’s headers weren’t bad, per se, but he won’t often be as open and unmarked as he was against Azerbaijan. He and others, like Altidore, need to be more clinical, putting away the chances that present themselves. Portugal, for instance, will punish every U.S. mistake. The U.S. needs to return the favor if it hopes to advance.

Bad touch: If Altidore is going to play his way out of his slump, he needs to replace the stones at the end of his legs with actual feet. As the game went on against Azerbaijan, the sediment seemed to loosen and fall away somewhat, but there’s not a lot of time left for the rubble to shake free entirely. It needs to happen now.

Jermaine Jones: Jones actually played one of his best, most disciplined games against Azerbaijan. This point isn’t so much to call out his play. Rather, it is to highlight that including Jones in the lineup pushes Bradley out of his comfort zone, and eliminates an offensive midfield position that the U.S. might be better served in having. Jones is going to start, but still, we can hope.


Turkey is a quality side. Sporting players like Arda Turan, of the La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid, and Nuri Sahin, of Borussia Dortmund, they will be strong. While most of the squad plays in the domestic league, most hail from Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas, teams that compete perennially in Europe.

While Turkey has not qualified for the World Cup, they will provide a much sterner test for the U.S. than Azerbaijan, and are unlikely to sit in and defend to the same extent.

Final thoughts

While, again, the result of the game means little compared to the performance, the U.S. will want to put together a confident display, and score multiple goals, while keeping a clean sheet, if possible. All of these things are possible. Dempsey is set to play, and his presence should open up the offensive third, and the back line that started against Azerbaijan should return, as they looked the most composed.

Prediction: 2–0 to the U.S. The scoreline may be the same, but the performance will be improved, and U.S. fans’ panic meter will be turned down, if only slightly.

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