The United States Men’s National Team was in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday for a World Cup warmup “friendly” against Turkey. It was one of the team’s last games before World Cup action starts on June 12th against England. With lots of questions about the team, specifically their defense,the U.S. was looking to find some chemistry and potentially some momentum and confidence. After trailing early, the United States came back and defeated Turkey 2-1.
The United States trailed Turkey 1-0 after a first half of relatively uneven play. When the U.S. was taking care of the ball, they created opportunities. They were playing relatively wide open. Counter-attacking was the story of the half. When the U.S. drove deep into Turkey’s end, they were quickly barraged right back. This was the case unfortunately for U.S. defenseman Jonathan Spector. Spector got caught sleeping on the right side of the back line and nearly single-handedly gave up the lone goal.
In the second half at 58 minutes, the United States tied it up on a great combination from Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. Donovan made a run behind the defense, received a great lob pass from Robbie Findley inside the Turkish goal area. Donovan handled the ball beautifully as he beat the Turkish goalkeeper right with one touch before crossing left to a wide open Jozy Altidore. Altidore smashed it down the center of the untended net. It was a great goal as Donovan made a great pass and Altidore timed his run perfectly to find space in between at least three Turkish defenders.
The United States’ second goal came in the 75th minute as Clint Dempsey bulldozed through a tackle before blasting the ball off the Turkish goalkeeper and in. The ball was delivered to Dempsey by Landon Donovan off a throw-in right after a U.S. substitution. Dempsey’s first touch seemed a bit lucky, but all that matters is that his second touch put the ball in the back of the net.
The U.S. had many other good scoring opportunities in the second half. Dempsey almost added a second goal on a nice feed. He hit the outside of the right post. On a free kick just outside the 18 yard box, Jose´ Francisco Torres almost caught the defense sleeping on the near side. His quick bender over two near side defenders just hit the outside of the Turkish net.
As the U.S. now heads to South Africa for the World Cup there are a few things that should benefit the team. United States goalkeeper Tim Howard is clearly a team leader. In the first half before the first goal was scored, Howard came screaming out of his net after some tentative defense almost cost the U.S. a goal. The defense seemed to play more aggressively after that to mixed results. Regardless, the leadership that Howard provides to the somewhat suspect defense will be very important if the U.S. plans on doing anything in World Cup play.
Howard backed up his leadership with impressive play. He could hardly be blamed for the lone goal. On other occasions Howard came out and made impressive plays. On one play, Howard was forced to cover for his defense coming outside the 18 yard box to head a ball to safety. On another play that was eventually called offside, Howard came out, effectively choked the angle away from the offensive player before knocking the ball away with his right hand on a diving slide.
The U.S. took care of business, but questions still remain. The United States played a poor first half and even though they scrambled in the second half, their play was far from providing confidence going into the World Cup.
(Image Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images)