Selected Images: USA 2 – Turkey 1

From eye of Matt Mathai–the Ansel Adams of American soccer imagery.





Clint Jozy1 Bradley Cameron

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Positioning: Catastrophe Averted, 43′, USA 2 – Turkey 1

First, of all, I love Jermaine Jones. To me, he gets too much stick from the US fanbase. He often does the grunt work of carrying the ball despite opponents draped all over him. (See, USA 4 – B&H 2 or even USA 2 – Mexico 0 over the past year.)

That said, he’s being thrust into a role that is less than ideal for his skillset right before the test of a lifetime. Many commented that it was Jones’s distribution at issue, if any, on Sunday.

Take a look though at the sequence below. It’s a curious defensive display from the States in the least.

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Michael Bradley goes to close down a Turkey midfielder whose checked to a pass, but Jones goes too. Why? (And BTW, lot of greenage there in between the lines.)

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Later on in the sequence, the US swarms in the middle of the field, Jones is neither coming up to support, guarding the linking player or otherwise….

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The ball gets played by the Turkey midfielder to the support square pass on the right flank. Jones, with two players, behind him goes to close the player down. Jones is the CDM–there are as many as four Turkey players central ready to break down the US if a ball find its way vertically.

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The Turkey rightback launches the ball to his striker counterpart. The break is on! There are three central trailers bearing down in support. Only a misplaced ball by the striker allows the US to barely escape what could have an excellent chance.

There are a number of issues here. (1) The US spacing between its backline and its midfield can be measured in acres instead of inches. (Arrigo Sacchi is unimpressed.) (2) There is half-commitment from Jones with no failover in midfield–that’s probably Zusi? in that final slide who doesn’t stay with a runner and (3) Jones appears to be positionally naive at CDM and gets sucked exceedingly high. (Note: I would also think that Besler should be face-guarding his opponent–or in front of him–but I’m not sure the right positioning there.)

This type of defense Ghana for one and likely Germany and Portugal will pounce on. This was–in the end–an innocuous play; overlooked by broadcasters, but scouts for the US Group G opponents no doubt caught this.

US v. Turkey: Live Commentary


A little Art Blakely–ain’t much better on the keys–after the surf sesh. Crack a Scrimshaw and we’re in to USA-Turkey. This used to be George Vecsey time.

Will Brad Davis start? Can he hang if it gets going up and down and will he make a difference from the top of the attacking third out left?

Starting line-ups shortly.


TSG’s USA v. Turkey Preview: Turks & Chaos?

Fresh off the forgettable...

Fresh off the forgettable…

Fresh off a most forgettable 2-0 victory on Tuesday against Azerbaijan, the US xeroxes its second game of the 2010 Send-off Series in 2010 and steps into the ring against a young, unproven Turkey side in New Jersey Sunday afternoon. The absence of John Harkes on the broadcast means the over-under on “Kearny, NJ” references drops to single digits. Here, here.


The Jose Francisco Torres game.

That was the moniker bestowed upon the 2010 US-Turkey World Cup warm-up match in Philadelphia. The US prevailed 2-1 in classic Bob Bradley rope-a-dope style.

It was an affair that saw some fundamental breakdowns in defense–primarily from Benny Feilhaber–including perhaps the most bewildering clearance attempt ever in a US shirt–and secondarily from Ricardo Clark which led to the lone US concession.

It also saw the love affair renew with the diminutive Torres whose efficient “three-touch” distribution display in the second half had fans drooling with possession potential for South Africa. (It was not to be though as Torres corkscrew pass attempts against an underrated Slovenia only led to turnovers and to his World Cup campaign being over after just 45 minutes. And those who say that Torres is the Mexican Xavi are probably okay when Spotify recommends Jesus Jones as a “you may be interested in” selection for U2.)

The 2010 match also saw Jonathan Spector exposed for speed on the right–and forever relegated to the bench by Bradley thereafter and the US deploy in a 4-2-3-1; a single forward set that fans were pining for at the time.

Ironically, the formation and deployment the States used on that day was a mirror image of what Jurgen Klinsmann would use through qualifying.

The US pushed high on the right side through Spector (in Stevie Cherundolo’s stead), Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore in the first half in a blueprint that mimicked the US pushing high and left through Beasley, Dempsey and Altidore throughout 2014. Graham Zusi plays the tucked-in shuttler role to protect the US rightback in 2014 and this was Landon Donovan’s role that day on the left to protect the less-than-nimble Carlos Bocanegra.

Of course, that formation gave way to Bradley’s battle-tested 4-2-2-2 when the US fell behind in the second half with Robbie Findley entering for the sacrificed Feilhaber. The US used Landon Donovan as the attacking conduit with Jose Torres the conductor as the US motored back to victory.

It’s a different tale nearly four years later. Bradley’s team had the Onyewu injury situation and a rather pedantic debate of wether to tab Maurice Edu or Ricardo Clark in midfield as its lone lightning rods.

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The Yanks enter their 2014 match against the Crescent Moons with Landongate tailgating in their rearview mirror, a new diamond 4-4-2 formation and some second guessing over coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics. That’s Chris Christie-approved drama right there.

And after much touting upon Klinsmann’s naming and being tried at five different positions including leftback (because anyone can play leftback), Jose Francisco Torres will not have a sequel Sunday–and will join the lift of misfit toys discarded by US fans that includes Charlie Davies, Edgar Castillo and more.

Much to prove and showcase as the Send-Off series really kicks off and Brazil is nigh.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview. As usual it goes:

⇒ About The Opponent: Turkey

⇒ TSG: What We’re Looking For

⇒ 11 At The Whistle

About The Opponent: Turkey

It was a tumultuous 2014 qualifying attempt for the once formidable side of Turkey–third place finishers at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

In a 2014 group that included the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Estonia and Andorra, the Crescent Stars fell well short, like Garrincha short, of slipping themselves into a playoff for a potential UEFA World Cup spot.

If you’ve been following along with the previews here at TSG, then you’ve been exposed to the assessment that Turkey will ape Group G opponent Portugal in their style. However, the Turks appetite for the 4-3-3 isn’t as set as it once was.

The 4-3-3 was the formation the side used to run through the qualifying gauntlet under former manager Adbullah Avc1 who many identify as being the culprit behind Turkey’s failure to represent in Brazil.



New head man Fatih Terim–who has pinged back and forth between the national team job and skippering Galatasaray–is a long-time employer of the standard 4-4-2, however.

That said, with Turkey’s solid wide forward play and the developing skillset of rising moon Hakan Çalhanoğlu–whose name is buzzing around the transfer tabloids in association with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and more–a 4-3-3 likely makes best use of the full complement of the Turkish roster. Indeed this is the formation that Terim’s side rolled out in Thursday night’s 2-0 win over World Cup-bound Honduras at RFK in DC.

Kim Kallstrom-esque!

As such, they’ll be–at minimum–the stand-in for Portugal in this preview.

The first such comparative here is Turkey’s UEFA record–the side did much better playing away in final qualifying than they did at home. No doubt this is due to the comfort level of playing on the counter where Turkey play their best soccer.

And like Paulo Bento’s static Portugal sides, the inverse is true as well; the squad has trouble when tasked with being the aggressor and facing other defend-deep-and-counter sides.

For Turkey, the attack will all–hopefully–start with Atletico Madrid’s Arda Turan, the slick-handles left winger who blazed up the US left flank in 2010 for the only goal conceded by the States that day.

Turan is coming off a rigorous club season that saw him miss out on the Champions League Final and has now been ruled out for Sunday. His replacement could be Ahmet Özek.

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Jurgen Klinsmann on USMNT Squad Selection

Part of Rog Bennett’s ESPN documentary.

US vs Azerbaijan: Live Commentary

Right here in TSG’s backyard! Game time, 7pm…LOCAL! Here we go…

Tim: "Does this defense line-up right?"

Tim: “Does this defense line-up right?”

Line-up prediction (with some new data points):

G: Howard

DEF: Fab J, Cameron, Besler, Beasley

CM: Bradley, Jones

RM/LM: Zusi, Green

WTFWD: Dempsey

STR: Altidore

Yeah, something tells me Green starts in this one.

In case you missed it, here’s our game preview. Enjoy the match!


TSG’s USA vs. Azerbaijan Preview: 1 A.D. (After Donovan)

All for one... all good?

All for one… all good?

Well there goes another dramatic return to the beautiful Bay Area for the US men’s national team.

Twellman, snubbed for political reasons in 2006 like another US luminary in 2014.

Twellman, snubbed for political reasons in 2006 like another US luminary in 2014.

Last time in San Francisco, Taylor Twellman lit the lamp once and dropped two dimes in a 3-2 victory over Japan in February 2006.

Bruce Arena left him off the World Cup roster in place of someone from Landon Donovan’s wedding party who had nary a contribution in Germany.

Save for Clint Dempsey late chest-thumping lash“Don’t discount just yet the fight .. the heart … the vigor … the verve of the USA!”—the US would go scoreless of their own accord at World Cup 2006. If not for a Cristian Zaccardo–good thing he wasn’t Colombian–moment of American brilliance, Arena & Co. were coming back from Germany with three “L’s” in their pocket and very little of redeeming value.

This time, the US again assembles its World Cup camp in the hotbed of technology investment and a few basic beep tests later, the US’s all-time leading goal scorer is somehow deemed surplus to product requirements.

The coach’s son uses the Twitter megaphone to broadcast his elation of the Landon news and Jurgen Klinsmann sends the US team cannonballing into the Send-Off Series.

See you again in seven years Julian Green where more drama will surely unfold.

In nothing short of a shocker, American soccer whistleblower Twellman announced Klinsmann’s US selections on Thursday to a stunned fanbase.

No Donovan.

Send-off series...

Send-off series…

No Terrence Boyd–who many thought a shoe-in as Jozy Altidore’s back-up and no Michael Parkhurst, perhaps the best technical defender the US has ever produced.

No Donovan.

No Brad Evans who dutifully soldiered on at an unfamiliar position through qualifying only to be tasked with playing another unfamiliar one, centerback, almost exclusively in the Stanford camp.

In their stead, a combination of MLS wunderkind Chris Wondolowski–a product of nearby Danville, CA, World Cup rookie Brad Davis–who is six months older than Donovan himself and some youngster phenoms: Hertha Berlin John Brooks and Bayern II riser Julian Green.

This is conjecture of the highest order, but if you think Brazil tickets weren’t on the table during the Green negotiations, then I’d like to sell you Myspace … or a rotary phone. Or anything at a premium.

Let’s address the Donovan drop head-on and pithily.

Donovan is one of the US’s top 23 players–according to Tim Howard’s he’s much, much higher up.

Donovan is not the player he once was.

Donovan is one of the US’s top 23 players.

At the end of the day, the US–like most international sides–is short on game changers.

This isn’t England dropping Theo Walcott in 2010; he had potential, not resume. This isn’t Spain dropping Raul before Euro 2008–there was a clear set of those able to ascend to the throne. It’s not Ronaldhino for Brazil. Or, for that matter, Kahn for Klinsmann’s Germany–as crazy Jens Lehman was already making stupid saves.

No team-player combination had the bookends of “been there, done that” (Donovan) and “unsure whose ready to step-up waiting in the wings” (USMNT).

It’s one thing to cut out a cancer. That makes abundant sense. You could say that with Roy Keane for Ireland in 2002 or maybe Samir Nasri being left out of this year’s French drama troupe. It’s another thing to say there isn’t a fit at forward–then you realize if not for Donovan the US may not’ve won the 2013 Gold Cup.

And Donovan’s played the bench role before–after being maligned for being uninvolved, benched for lack of commitment.

The response? Emphatic when called.

He took a Freddy Adu pass and glided past Panama’s left rear flank, slipped a pass between the legs of a defender for Clint Dempsey to push in and to push the US into the Gold Cup 2011 final. He may or may not be a 90′ player (Does anyone really believe the fitness bunk? I hope not.)…

…but–like Giovanni Van Bronkhorst fizzing a pellet passed Frances Muslera’s coconut in 2010–he still can make a play.


You don’t need more than a second to change a game and though it’s not prevalent to be fair, history still gives us the twilighting cases of the aforementioned Van Bronkhorst, Rivaldo and debatably 2010 Forlán.

This whole ever-present debate can really be answered one way. Review this scenario:

It’s June 24th in Recife. It’s 1-0 bad guys.

It’s the 85′ and the US needs to scratch out a draw against Germany to go through the group. Michael Bradley has just artfully pulled a 180-degree turn in possession on Sam Khedira after a corner kick has found its way out of the 18-yard box scrum. Bradley steams down the center of the pitch with the Germans in pursuit and Phil Lahm stepping to him to force distribution, but Bradley’s got two players burning up either channel with Per Mertesacker waiting for the commit.

On one flank is Julian Green. The other Landon Donovan.

Who do you want him to pass to? Who does he pass to?

So now, it’s appropriately the Send-Off Series in more ways than one.

And Klinsmann has his squad.

And there is much merit–to be clear–in his selections.

World Cup defenders are getting younger, especially at centerback–Klinsmann went younger too. The US will still have the second oldest outfield in Group G in Brazil. Germany and Ghana averaging almost two years younger across the defenders, mids and forwards.

Klinsmann brought the aforementioned Chris Wondolowski, a technical player who likely would’ve been eschewed by predecessors for his lack of physical superiority. But Klinsmann sees someone who merely puts the ball in the back of the net. Should Wondo be needed, this will be great theatre for all those who dismiss the US’s historical reliance on physical players over technical players, but them summarily dismiss the MLS goal machine’s abilities.

(Wondo’s subtle movement here is just as important as a Chicharito poking around the near post.)

The manager went Tim Chandler, a player’s whose commitment could certainly be questioned more so than Landon’s. Chandler is a game gambit to defend Ronaldo in Manaus at the whistle, but can he do it in the 75’?

"I want you to play right there now. Are you ready?"

“I want you to play right there now. Are you ready?”

Klinsmann is aping his moves from Germany 2006.

He’s questioning fitness and driving a regimen against it. He’s going with younger, unproven players. But that’s where the comparisons end. The pedigree is not the same. The tactical nous of Jurge Low absent.

And let it be said here, it’s controversial from Klinsmann, but it’s not altogether a poor gambit. Ignorance is bliss and a World Cup can be places where youth is served. It’s usually cold but there are moments when it can be scalding. (See Donovan, Landon, 2002)

Again, it will be fascinating theatre. Half-built stadiums and ESPN shining moments await.

Without further Freddy Adu we get to our preview.

It goes:

About The Opponent: Azerbaijan

11 At The Whistle

TSG: What Are We Looking For (abbreviated)


About The Opponent: Azerbaijan

Should you care about Azerbaijan? Only if they beat the US.

'Bajaini manager Berti Vogts in his playing days. I have to believe that Will Farrell is a top target to play him in the faux documentary.

‘Bajaini manager Berti Vogts in his playing days. I have to believe that Will Farrell is a top target to play him in the faux documentary.

In what surely is a make-good on securing the services Azerbaijan manager and former coach-of-Klinsy Berti Vogts, the US’s opponent Tuesday comes from the nether regions of UEFA.

CONCACAF powerhouses Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago both claim FIFA rankings higher than Azerbaijan’s “85” to add some perspective.

If you agree that Nigeria is the likely match in style for Ghana and that Turkey can be bent into a clone of Portugal than Azerbaijan is Germany.

[Drop mic. Closes Twitter account. Goes to read Inverting the Pyramid.]

In all seriousness though, there are more than a few parallels between Die Mannschaft and the Milli starting with a team, of course, coached by a former German national.

For all its’ lack of talent breadth and bouts with individual execution, Azerbaijan is highly organized like nearly all Eastern European sides. Vogts’ squad conceded just 10 times in nine qualifying matches. That’s impressive considering their dearth of talent and that they do take chances breaking shape on the counter.

Defensively the team will sit in a 4-1-4-1 formation or a flat 4-4-2. Take a close look at the Milli defense because one can see some principles of it being incorporated by the US through Vogts….most acutely a midfield band that functions with five across often.

That shape gives way to a very fluid 4-2-2-2 in transition, one not dissimilar from what  you saw from both the US and Germany at World Cup 2010 (and many other squads too, but we’ll use those comps.)

In fact, dare I saw a very similar “chance”–it wasn’t converted–manufactured from Azerbaijan on tape to this one by the Mainshaft against the Three Kitties in 2010.

The keys for the visitors in their typical gameplan is to clog the top of the attacking third and feast on a mistake high to grab a chance on the break or force the other side to breakdown a compact low-block defense. cut out an ill-timed pass or snatch a turnover … and shuttle the ball quickly high and wide to the free-flowing wingers. The front four for Azjerbaijan all read-and-react to the others’ movement very well. This will a test of the US’s back four team defense.

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