Recap and reaction: USA 2-1 Turkey

Photo: Eli Pearlman-Storch

The United States snuck out of Red Bull Arena with a 2-1 victory over Turkey that was an even mix of good, bad, and ugly.

Four of the five places in back appeared settled as Tim Howard (duh) remained in goal behind Fabian Johnson on the right and a Geoff Cameron-Matt Besler pairing in the middle. Timmy Chandler stepped in on the left, given a chance to challenge DaMarcus Beasley with Johnson firmly in place on the other side.

Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley continued in midfield, with Graham Zusi and Brad Davis manning the flanks behind Clint Dempsey and the impressive Jozy Altidore.

Turkey countered with a 4-5-1 that saw Inan sitting deep behind playmakers Nuri Sahin and Oguzhan Ozyakup.

First half

Unlike Azerbaijan, Turkey came to play. While the US employed a diamond midfield to create space for Michael Bradley, the Turks played a tight central midfield trio and looked to the wingers to disrupt the United States defense with angled runs. Early warning bells were ringing when Chandler and Besler left a gap between them and only a poor pass prevented an early breakthrough.

The US responded by involving Altidore as a hold-up man between Balta and Dogan on the right. With Zusi tucking inside, the Americans overloaded that side and looked for Dempsey’s darting runs when the Turks followed Altidore into space. In the 7th minute, Zusi nearly played Dempsey in, only to see Turkey respond immediately with a half volley off a poor giveaway from Jones at the top of the box.

It was a battle only a seesaw could love early on. Bradley was finding space, but the US lacked width to pull apart the Turkish defense. Meanwhile, the American back line was sitting far too deep, leaving Jones with acres of space to cover when Zusi and Brad Davis were wandering upfield. Jones embodied the early phase of the game as he played a mix of ambitious and imbecilic passes intended to unlock the Turkish midfield. Those that didn’t find the mark came back at the US in a hurry.

In the 15th minute, the United States should have been on top through Jozy Altidore’s first goal for club or country since December 4, 2013. Altidore’s fashionable chested turn earned a corner that fell to the striker deep in the box. Though he finished well, the Tunisian referee, Slim Jedidi (seriously) whistled Altidore for a push on Turkish goalie Onur Kivrak. It was the type of call that only the strictest of disciplinarians could love.

Two minutes later, the US were almost behind when the defense backed off Mevlut Erding at the top of the box. The striker’s slick turn and shot hit Howard in the hands, serving as yet another warning that the Turks were receiving far too much space in the American half.

The next chance came in the 21st minute when Bradley created a turnover in midfield and tried to play Altidore in behind. The ball was too heavy, but Altidore’s cutback found the American playmaker in the right channel just inside the box. His angled shot was cleared off the line by a well-positioned Ozan Tufan.

The tide was turning in Turkey’s favor, as the visitors enjoyed space behind the overcommitting Zusi and Davis. The American back line was often too deep, too stretched, and relying on their considerable athleticism.

However, a moment of brilliance changed the game in the 26th minute. A Brad Davis free kick from the right was cleared to the top of the box. Altidore shielded well, dropped to Davis, who, in turn, dropped to Fabian Johnson. The right back drove at goal and played the ball to Bradley ten yards outside of the box. Bradley controlled, then looped a marvelous touch pass over the defense into Johnson’s path. Making no mistake, Fab finished first time low and to the left.

The wind was gone from the Turkish sails, and it was eleven minutes before the next big chance of the game. Altidore chased a long ball through the center circle and beat the defender to the touch. He would have been behind the defense, but for the ensuing body contact that sent him sprawling. Dempsey ran onto the ball, however, and Jedidi played on. Dempsey, in turn, was bodied off the ball as he drove into the box by Gonul. No fouls were called on the play.

Second half

Howard, Besler, and Jones made way for Guzan, Brooks, and Beckerman as the second period began. Whether intentional or not, the US moved to more of a flat four in midfield, with Bradley sitting deeper defensively and the wingers staying closer to the touchlines.

The change in tactics was meant to minimize the space in front of the back line, but it paid almost immediate offensive dividends.

With Turkey pressing forward, Beckerman, Bradley, and Zusi played short through the middle off a turnover. With space on the left, Bradley pushed on and hit Davis at the top left corner of the box. Davis’ weighted ball gave Chandler room on the left wing and he came through with a spinning cross off his weaker foot. A comedy of errors ensued as the Turkish defense and goalie managed to do everything except corral the ball, which fell to Dempsey at the back post. His tap-in got stuck under the Kivrak, only to squirt into the net as the goalie rolled over. Dempsey shrugged, smiled, and enjoyed the gift.

In the 63rd minute, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin replaced Brad Davis and Fabian Johnson. Green almost bagged his first international goal three minutes later when Altidore’s defensive pressure gave Zusi a chance to curl a ball into the left channel. With two defenders on his tail, Green’s Wengerian first touch left him on the ground and empty-handed.

Diskerud arrived for Zusi in the 69th as the US looked to tighten things up in the middle. Turkey responded by playing through the wings, with Yedlin up to the task and Chandler shaky. Luckily, John Anthony Brooks grew into the game and after an indecisive first fifteen he began to look the part of an international center back.

In the 79th minute, Altidore was in behind off a slick throughball from Bradley. The striker elected to slow down and dink a ball to Diskerud at the back post, sending color commentator Taylor Twellmen into yet another lengthy discourse on confidence and shooting.

A minute later, Altidore did better by knifing in on the right, cutting to his left, and firing low to the near post. Alas, Kivrak was up to the task.

In the 89th minute, Timmy Chandler decided, no, he was not so hot on starting in the World Cup after all. The young defender turned off, handing the ball to Mustafa Pektemek, who powered toward Brad Guzan alone. Guzan did well to stay in front of the attacker, but a turning shot hit Cameron’s arm as the defender blocked the goal mouth. Selcuk Inan made no mistake from the spot, beating Guzan with a strong shot to the left side netting.

US verdict

Jozy was good (just not at scoring). Some very questionable refereeing took away the striker’s early goal and torpedoed a late run in alone. But Altidore was involved early and often, both checking deep and running in behind. His defensive workrate was top notch. Early in his career, Altidore’s issue was that he didn’t have a reliable shot. He worked on it, and now it’s a plus shot. He just has to take it.

Defense too deep. The defense that had never played together looked the part early on. Once Turkey shook their confidence, Cameron and Besler dropped deeper and deeper, worried about cutting runs between them and their fullbacks. The result was a desert of US jerseys in front of the back four through which Turkish attackers wandered unimpeded.

Jermaine Jones has clear limitations. And when he plays within them, he’s an effective holding midfielder. But Jones has never been one to set tempo. Instead, he’s trying to make the big pass and the big tackle. He needs to harness that energy into a more refined positional game, especially if the United States wants to push their wingers so high.

The American offense is can be for real. In Zusi and Davis, the United States have two guys who can put a ball behind the defense with consistency. In Bedoya and Diskerud, they have players that will work to get open when Bradley has time on the ball. When the US takes their time, builds attacks, and stays in motion, they have all the pieces to break down a good defense. Too often, however, they start thinking like American footballers and go up the field as fast as possible. Pushing hard and turning the ball over will be punished — not might be, will be — by Germany and Portugal.

US questions

Who is the third striker? In an effort to get him that long overdue goal, Klinsmann gave Altidore big minutes Sunday. Aron Johansson may be the better player, but Chris Wondolowski has the head you want in the box if Davis and Zusi are playing wide.

Can the US play tight defense and a midfield diamond? The offense looked dangerous, but Turkey found all sorts of space in the first half. Turkey is not Germany. Can the Americans generate opportunities when they see so much less of the ball?

1-Tim Howard (12-Brad Guzan, 46); 23-Fabian Johnson (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 64), 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Matt Besler (6-John Brooks, 46), 21-Timmy Chandler; 19-Graham Zusi (10-Mix Diskerud, 69), 13-Jermaine Jones (15-Kyle Beckerman, 46), 4-Michael Bradley, 14-Brad Davis (16-Julian Green, 64); 17-Jozy Altidore, 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.)
Subs Not Used: 3-Omar Gonzalez, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Aron Johannsson, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 22-Nick Rimando
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

12-Onur Recep Kivrak; 2-Hakan Kadir Balta (4-Ugur Demirok, 83), 24-Osman Tarik Camdal (17-Mustafa Pektemek, 46), 3-Ishak Dogan (26-Ahmet Ilhan Ozek, 46), 7-Gokhan Gonul, 8-Selcuk Inan, 9-Mevlut Erdinc (19-Bilal Kisa, 80), 10-Nuri Sahin (capt.) (5-Hakan Calhanoglu, 70), 15-Oguzhan Ozyakup (20-Olcan Adin, 67), 16-Ozan Tufan, 18-Caner Erkin
Subs Not Used: 1-Tolga Zengin, 11-Olcay Sahan, 13-Adem Buyuk, 21-Omer Toprak, 22-Aydin Karabulut, 23-Volkan Babacan, 25-Turgut Dogun Sahin
Head Coach: Fatih Terim

Scoring Summary
USA – Fabian Johnson (Michael Bradley) – 26′
USA –  Clint Dempsey – 52′
TUR –  Selcuk Inan (PK) – 90′

Stats Summary (USA / TUR)
Shots: 8 / 20
Shots on Goal: 6 / 12
Saves: 11 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 8
Fouls: 20 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1

Misconduct Summary

Referee: Slim Jedidi (TUN)
Assistant Referee 1: Anouar Hmila (TUN)
Assistant Referee 2: Yamen Melloulchi (TUN)
Fourth Official: Nasrallah Jaouadi (TUN)


  1. -nickt.- says:

    that defense is gonna get torn apart at the world cup.

    • It does not look promising

    • It was always going to get torn apart. We don’t have a single good international defender in the pool.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Well that’s not true at all. Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson are both excellent international defenders. And honestly, Besler and Beasley are pretty darn good too. The problem is that it took too long to identify who the back four would be. And once they figured it out, the mucked around with the formation so the spacing between the defense and the midfield changed, which forced another alteration.
        This is a coaching/system thing much more than a “these players are awful” thing

      • Agreed, we’ll have to play with a 2nd holding midfielder in Brazil.

        You can almost see Jones thinking to himself that he has to stay positionally disciplined which unfortunately takes away his aggressiveness and it looks like he’s kind of floating around rather than snuffing things out.

        If you’re gonna play that diamond, it has to be Beckerman in that holding role.

        BTW – it looks like the State of Liberty is holding a turkey leg on that tifo rather than the World Cup.

      • The Black Hand says:

        It was, in fact, a Turkey leg.

      • George H says:

        Well played, sir.

  2. K. Bowen says:

    Surprisingly, knocking the keeper off balance and using the advantage to score a goal drew a whistle. Who would know?

  3. Did anyone stop and say holy shit when Ian Darke commented that Chandler and Beasler need to learn to communicate quickly because they only have 2 games to get ready until the games matter.
    Why in the world is Jurgen Klinsman in a position to still be figuring out who his best 11 are?
    I try to be positive and upbeat, I do. But what does it say about the state of our soccer (hate this word) team/culture when the back line of our defense against 3 of the 32 best teams in the world has not played with one another for any length of time that gives one hopefullness.
    When G. Cameron slides over is F.Johnson going to know to do it too– because they could shadow dance together in the dark with their eyes closed– because they have chemistry, because they have developed repoire and are willing to die for one another. Because that’s what it takes at this level to be special.
    Turkey vexed us multiple times in this game, wide open in the box with players…. Wide open. How in the world are we going to contain Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
    Can someone please explain to me.
    How. Are. We. Going. To. Survive?

  4. Southside Johnny says:

    Julian Green was notably unimpressive, I think. I get the potential long term gain, but Green for Donovan could really hurt this time.

    • Can’t look at it like it was Green for Donovan.

      JK said he views Landon as a striker and really it makes sense because Landon was at his best in the Gold Cup playing the withdrawn striker. For the USMNT that is Dempsey’s role. Landon has lost too much pace and stamina to play the wing and be able to cover defensively.

      Green is an attacking winger and is not the one who knocked Landon off the roster. I think Wondo was chosen over Donovan to be honest. I do not necessarily agree with the decision but it might have been because at the time when the final camp was going on Wondo had been scoring while Donovan had be pretty quiet?

    • The Black Hand says:

      We were going to be hurting, this year, regardless.

    • DarthLos117 says:

      I totally agree with you Southside.
      Green in for Donovan out is not only absurd and unjustified but disrespectful.
      Any of other opinion is just fooling themselves.
      It’s just ashame.

  5. Great One says:

    Wow the defense is very disconcerting. The offense missed some chances but still played well. Beyond the defense though there is little outside wing threat, and certainly no speed. Zusi had some spectacular balls so I get it, but him and Davis together are just way to slow and unable to beat anyone on the dribble. The problem is we have zero of those player on the bench either for later in the game. Donovan obviously would help, but also maybe shea? Idk but I see us losing these games 3-1

  6. ebradlee10 says:

    I’m going into the World Cup with the mind set that these teams we face will attack with abandon. Sometimes they will succeed and sometimes they won’t.

    The times they don’t succeed I’m hoping we can get the ball out of the defensive third quickly. Even if we have a one man advantage moving forward we have the talent to exploit ANY defense in the world.

    It was always going to be an uphill climb, we just need to take the chances we get.

    (And hope we play with a second holding mid.)

  7. What’s with the drum stick in Lady Liberty’s hand instead of a torch? You know, the one in the picture on the homepage. Is that someone’s idea of humor for a friendly? In the days of “Say no to racism” this is in bad taste and oozes of group ignorance. It starts with garbage like this and progresses to drum sticks being thrown on the field during corner kicks instead of bananas. “Turkey” the country is actually known as Turkiye outside the US and the word describes a culture absent of the bird we eat at Thanksgiving for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years… Nowadays Turks actually like turkey meat because it’s protein that is not pork… but I digress. COME ON as funny as bird humor can be it’s really not funny if you happen to be Turkish or Turkish-American! It’s like “for real another bird reference this time in public”?

    I’m Russian to Turkey dinner because I’m Hungary… grow up.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    I think the leader of the AO up there said it was meant to be the World Cup trophy, and that when they painted it, it came out gold, but in the light of day it looked brown. I also think he said they meant no disrespect

    • That’s an unfortunate coincidence how much it looks like a big juicy turkey drumstick. Actually now that I look closer it’s hysterical. I’m glad you bothered to post that OneManWolfpack. Moving on…

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