In the final game before the trip around half the world, the USMNT set their guns to “blaze” in the 2nd half after accepting attack volley after attack volley from the Turks in the first.
Former Fenerbache player Colin Kazim-Richards found a leaking Arda Turan up the left wing in the first half to open the the scoring for the visitors, but US punched back after halftime through Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, beneficiaries of Landon Donovan the playmaker.
The 2nd half saw an urgent group of Yanks push the tempo, link shorter passes and overwhelm a Turkey team that wilted in the humidity of Lincoln Financial Field.
Coach Bob Bradley was measured in his post game comments and said that the introduction of new players in the 2nd was key to the US gaining the win. Bradley also commented that the US game plan was to hold shape as best as possible in the first, absorb offensive pressure from a talented Turkey team, and strike later in the match.
“The early phase of the game is so much about establishing things, and playing through the period of time when the game is tight and there is no space, not giving anything away–knowing that over time the game will start to open up.”
And open up they did. Whether it was a halftime speech, the insertion of key components, or merely a pre-meditated game plan, the Yanks looked the part of World Cup contenders during the final 45′ plus after sitting on the ropes with Turkey playing the role of George Foreman to the Yanks’ Ali.
A 1st half that saw balls lobbed up the pitch and the tandem of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore not able to create opportunities, much less keep possession, gave way to the 2nd which saw a more staccato array of passes linking through the middle with the threat of Robbie Findley’s speed opening up the space there. Cue the counter punch.
With Deuce tucking in at left half, Landon on the right–where he played nearly whole game–and more accurate and simpler ball movement from conductor Jose Torres in the middle, the US midfield attack dominated the Turks.
One note before we get started here. That pesky leftback conundrum was again called attention to yesterday. The US was very disciplined in protecting Carlos Bocanegra in the back. While Boca was tactically strong on the day, he was anything but physically strong as first Feilhaber, then Donovan, then Deuce covered over the top of him, forcing attackers wide.
Now on to our customary review (and boy were we off in the preview):
TSG’s What We Were Looking For
What We Were Looking For
• Okay, let’s try this one again: Whither Gooch?
TSG–actually let’s make this just me–Matthew from TSG was way off. While three of our predicted four starters were in there, we had commented that Oguchi Onyewu would most definitely start.
Didn’t happen and, yes, you should read into it. While Onyewu entered in the 2nd half, the 2nd half is when the US had game-planned to attack more feverishly according to Bob Bradley’s comments afterwards. Thus putting less pressure on it’s backline.
If Onyewu is your starter, then you need him in their against Turkey’s best, not when their attackers are pooped. I usually try to read into Coach USA’s rationale and figure out the reasoning–only thing that rings a bell here is concern.
Whatever USSF is feeding us about Gooch’s readyness, I’m now not believing it.
Press officer Michael Kammarman attempted to joke in the press box after the line-up annoucement with a “There’s nothing wrong with Gooch. He played 65 minutes in the 2nd half on Tuesday. He’ll in in the 2nd half.”
• What’s the forward combination?
Well, Findley was the back-up, but the starters up top were Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. Again, another area where Matthew from TSG erred.
That said, the combination of Altidore and Dempsey were annihilated in the air and failed to produce any credible chances in the first beyond Altidore’s little scissor-dribble burst.
While I do accept that the US was playing defensively, the fact that the States weren’t able to keep possession suggests this combination at least for this game wasn’t the best one.
TSG had mentioned and wanted Gomez–who warmed in the 2nd half, but didn’t get in.
• Let’s hear it for Marcus Hahnemann?
Make no mistake about it. No Hahnemann today means the Wolverhampton stalwart is just that and that alone. A #1 club keeper who’s #3 on the States.
(My biggest regret before the Yanks head to South Africa was not talking to Hahnemann in the mixed zone yesterday who had no suitors for an interview.)
• Is Maurice Edu in the hole?
I’m glad I put this one in here, because what you saw from the States today was a page out of Tuesday’s chapter and a look that the US is going to move the ball a lot more with their defensive midfielder that sits in the hole.
First, that’s not Maurice Edu’s role.
Bradley in his post game speech suggested that the weather elements led him to press his midfield and the midfield “had a lot of work to do” in the first half.
So, Coach Sweats employed a forward Ricardo Clark to close down players. Clark though didn’t use his athleticism all that well. Oh, he definitely runs and tackles well, but most of that running was to make up for the fact that he was out of position.
Worse in the first half, was Michael Bradley employed as the distribution hub in the back, which led to one spectacular pass, but often many errant passes sprayed up the field. Hard for your forwards to keep possession when they have to focus on reading where the ball is going.
For his part, Senior Bradley alluded to the value in pushing the younger, just-as-bald Junior up the pitch (let’s hope we don’t see Bradley sitting deep there anymore). The question is, who owns that role? Jose Torres?
If Edu’s in there, he’s likely moving Bradley back not putting Edu in the hub.
Torres for his part looks like a reliever in the role that Feilhaber once held.
So to synthesize my comments, I think you’ll see an Edu-Bradley combo take the field against England with the Texan Torres coming when things loosen up (read: when Frank Lampard and possibly Gareth Barry start to run on fumes.)
• Best Play
(Findley – Donovan – Jozy Altidore)
Cue the I-told-you-so’s on the Real Salt Lake…sub. Robbie Findley was actually the same Robbie Findley today. Findley still had a lot of trouble his final ball, twice dribbling out of bounds in the right corner.
The better part for Findley was his scintillating pass that unlocked Donovan, who grounded to Jozy for the 1st score and Findley’s ability to hold position on aerial service. The States’ best striker today maintaining possession up the pitch? Yup, same guy.
Oops, this isn’t the ratings section.
Well, Findley to Donovan to Altidore was International class. Well done.
Most Unheralded Play
On a day when Clint Dempsey dove once, but took many more hits–an elbow to the jaw on a corner, submarined twice on jump balls, plus an assortment of other jabs, a simple play at the 25th minute mark comes to mind. With the Yanks concluding an unsuccessful attack, Dempsey shadowed the goalkeeper away from the side–the right–the attack came so that the Turks couldn’t counterattack.
It was a simple play and one that usually goes unnoticed, but one that prevented that quick turn. Well, that’s what unheralded plays are.
• The Golden Shinguard
First, ignore what you hear about how suspect the central backline is. There was one goal against the States on a blown team defensive assignment from the midfielders.
The reality is the central defenders, in particular, were hung out to dry a number of times by poor-tackling in the midfield and an older-looking Bocanegra and skittish Jonathan Spector on the outsides. To be precise, it is the flankers who are most suspect.
The TSG Golden Shinguard goes to Jay DeMerit with a nod to Clarence Goodson, Clint Dempsey, Jose Torres and Landon Donovan. Of the other candidates, only Landon went a full 90 minutes.
DeMerit, or as we may start calling him, Captain Shutdown was a force in the middle. A plethora of times a blown tackle left him hung out to dry. Pairing a new centerback in the first and recovering one in the 2nd, DeMerit had two sensational “stand-ups” – taking on on-coming defender who had a few options and relegating that forward contained.
After Amsterdam, and now this, you’re just not watching the game if you don’t give DeMerit high marks in this one.
Tim Howard: 6.5
The skinny: Um, can I say that Howard needs to orchestrate his frustration and support better. After the 1st goal, Howard was clearly dismayed. It does no good to holler at your defense after that play with attackers standing around–it just gives the opponent confidence.
Beyond that Howard was smart on his angles in letting up only the single tally, though he wasn’t truly tested after the 1st half. For those that still pine for Brad Friedel, twice Howard came out beyond the box to snuff out an errant striker run. Friedel can’t make those plays and Jermain Defoe loves to make those runs. Timmy headed one, the other he pushed wide (which was eventually called back for offsides).
Got surprised on a quickly-taken free kick in the 2nd because he was organizing his defenders, but recovered to parry the ball over the limbo bar.
You’ll always be in good hands with Tim, even when he’s not paying attention.
Carlos Bocanegra: 4.5
Here’s what you need to know about Boca’s health…and frankly about the leftback situation. Bob Bradley for the past two games has thrust the ball up the right side of the pitch.
In both Czech game and the Turkey game, there was not one overlap from a left fullback. Both Bornstein and Boca on Saturday had opportunities to do it. They maintained their shape.
Bocanegra is still not 100% and he’s being covered by the left halfback. He may have gritted it out, but he was no more than average today.
Clarence Goodson: 7
Might the former FC Dallas be inline for a start against England. It sure is looking like it. Goodson covered for some leftback and center midfielder deficiencies and was an admiral in the air.
No friendly skies on Goodson’s watch.
Jay DeMerit: 8 (consensus in commentary has lower; don’t agree)
The aforementioned Captain Shutdown was simply stellar on the day.
Note, DeMerit (and Goodson) played the Turkey goal the right way. It was the midfielder’s role to hustle back and contain the left wing on the Turks goal in the first. Bob Bradley mentioned that after the match.
Jonathan Spector: 3.5
In fairness to Spector, he saw a lot of traffic today. That’s where the benefit of the doubt ends.
Spector was shaky, looked jittery, and was outright anemic in man marking.
His day started out bad in the 5th minute when he positioned himself poorly, and was turned twice on a through ball that Jay DeMerit barely snuffed out.
Spector simply lost his man on a bundle of occasions. Bob Bradley in the post game made a veiled comment about “individual defense” and players being accountable when someone asked the question of the backline.
We may see Cherundolo next time.
Benny Feilhaber: 6.5 5 (agree now with the consensus in the commentary)
I’m going to get roasted on this review. Benny played very well in my opinion because: 1) he’s categorically not a left midfielder and 2) he was assigned to stay inside of Boca and keep treats wide.
There is only so much you can do when you’re positioning is required by the scheme. Played balls to feet and was not a liability in defense as he sometimes is.
Michael Bradley: 4 for the 1st half, 6.75 for the 2nd
If there was a tale of two halves, here’s your “hero.”
Bradley was unsteady in the first half, and that may be generous. Playing in the distribution hub role—and perhaps this was the game plan, Bradley was tasked with shooting the ball up the pitch to Dempsey and Altidore. Too often those passes were way off target, like the-crowd-thought-about-yelling-“Airball” off-target.
Worse, on defense, Junior went to ground way too frequently and missed the tackle. You just don’t do that at the international level. This needs to be commented on.
In the 2nd half, Bradley was returned to a better position of a more advanced central midfielder and ball hawker and did a much better job.
However, I still think Maurice Edu did a better job at that role on Tuesday.
Ricardo Clark: 4.5
US fans are lucky that the former Dynamo man has a big gas tank, because Clark was running all over the pitch in the 1st half—about half the time because he was out of position. Clark hawked well, but that’s about it.
Landon Donovan: 7.75
According to Coach Sweats, Manhattan Beach’s finest was saving himself for the 2nd half. I sure hope so.
Donovan really wasn’t well supported in the 1st half and played within himself.
The second half—again with that threat of speed in front of him—Donovan blossomed and channeled his inner Steve Nash with two quality assists. Which presents an opportunity for this comment:
Not to be a downer, but a great tactical line-up in the second with Robbie Findley dragging the right back and centerback and Clint Dempsey hitching in towards the middle—if only the States had an overlapping leftback with a foot like an Ashley Cole or better (the Algerian who the Yanks will meet) Nadir Belhadj…well then the US offense would be a force.
Clint Dempsey: 6.75
Typical Deuce game here. Scores a goal, just misses a second. Shows frustration with teammates.
Better from Clint today on being involved in the game as he didn’t seem to disappear, only get frustrated, when he wasn’ getting service.
I quoted this stat a few months earlier, but will reiterate today, 85% of Clint Dempsey’s goals in the English Premier League have come in the first 15 minutes or last 15 minutes of the game.
Duece scored at the 75th minute today. Clockwork my man.
Jozy Altidore: 5.75
Weren’t you begging for just a little bit more?
Maybe it was the humidity, but I wanted more out of Altidore. Big Jeezy is a strong player–that’s not in question–but tenacious or “not-to-be-denied”—well I’m not seeing that yet.
I was frustrated with Altidore’s game on the day on one hand—on the other the service wasn’t there, especially in the 1st half.
The US was strongest on offense when the attack didn’t go through him, but he when in possession the Turk defense had to reckon with him.
Yeah, that encapsulates his day.
Oguchi Onyewu: 5.5
A nice point blank block on a shot. A header win in the middle of the field.
Better from the big man, but there was a cross where Dempsey was laid out on in the 2nd half. After I watched that I watched Gooch amble up the field. He used to run, now he ambles.
Gooch’s is getting into shape when he’s suppose to be fine-tuning.
Jose Torres: 8
My the defensive strides that the Pachuca midfielder has made; oh, and another, thing, yes Bob he’s a central midfielder.
Torres came on in the 2nd half and was a revelation in possession and distribution in the middle.
Contrary to other reports, you will not see Torres starting. Torres does his best work when the opponent is fatigued and has his time on the ball. To deploy Torres to start a game, would be to subject someone who doesn’t face the rigors of physical play in the Primera to too much physicality–in my opinion. It would waste his abilities.
Remember that role that Benny seemed to own off the bench—that role is what Torres has now locked up.
And about those defensive strides? Torres went to ground 6 times in the 2nd half and poked away the ball every time. That’s how it’s done.
Somewhere Sunil Gulati–who looks like he’s 5’2” in person–is cheshire-ing today. Torres was his eye’s apple during qualifying.
Robbie Findley: 7
(Rating mistakenly authored above).
If Jozy Altidore is a bowling bowl, than Robbie Findley is a pinball. Surprisingly about Findley was his ability to win service on over-the-top balls—I did not see that in Findley’s earlier forays on the Bob squad.
Steve Cherundolo: 6.5
The US used Cherundolo’s speed to get ahead on the break and in support in the 2nd half. Good strategy. Would Cherundolo been making those runs if he started in the first?
Too hard to tell. What you can bet on is that Cherdundolo will be worked into first team camp action as the first priority for the Yanks will be staying in front of attackers, something that his first half counterpart had trouble with.
Jonathan Bornstein: Inc.
Tantalizing, but ultimately inept. To me with Bornstein, it’s confidence. He gets on the ultimate stage and he’s afraid of making a mistake so he reacts instead of pro-acts. (is that a word?)
Same story, ability, but his medulla oblongata lacks tactical awareness.
Stu Holden: Inc.
International class; should be starting; let’s find him a spot. Somewhere. Good hair too.