USMNT Friendly Win vs. Turkey Raises More Questions Than Answers
On Sunday, the United States men's national team beat Turkey, 2-1, in the second of three preparation matches the USMNT is playing before it departs for Brazil and the 2014 World Cup.
The win came on the back of goals from Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey, but with only two weeks until the team's World Cup opener against Ghana, the game raised far more questions for the U.S. than it did answers.
Jermaine Jones or Kyle Beckerman?
The argument over whether U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann should be starting Jermaine Jones or Kyle Beckerman will continue after Sunday's win over Turkey.
For his part, Jones was solid defensively, backing up beaten defenders and putting his body on the line a number of times to block shots. In the fourth minute, Jones recovered very nicely to help Geoff Cameron after Matt Besler had stepped, but failed to stop a Turkish attack. Later in the first half, in both the 35th and 36th minutes, Jones stepped in front of shots to deny Turkish opportunities at the U.S. goal.
However, Jones did make some mistakes, such as when he was beaten in the box in the 12th minute, requiring Besler to make a last-ditch tackle. He also had a missed clearance in the eighth minute, which gave Turkey an open shot on goal, and a couple of lost possessions in the defensive third due to poor passes.
In the past, many U.S. fans have questioned Jones' commitment, but there was no doubt about his effort on Sunday. Still, the debate about whether Beckerman would be more effective in Jones' holding role is still open.
Beckerman certainly doesn't have Jones' athleticism, but he does seem to make far less mistakes, both with and without possession.
What's with Michael Bradley?
Although Michael Bradley was still a dangerous weapon for the U.S. on the attack against Turkey, particularly with his excellent pass to Fabian Johnson in the 26th minute for the U.S.' opening goal, Bradley didn't seem his normal self.
While he did also contribute in the buildup on Clint Dempsey's goal and was involved in more than a few good combinations to set up U.S. attacks, Bradley also, uncharacteristically, gave the ball away on multiple occasions—something that was evident in last week's win over Azerbaijan as well.
For Bradley, a player who usually has passing percentages that seem improbable, if not impossible, Sunday's performance was still a step below his normal excellence.
Jozy Altidore Looked Good, but Will He Ever Score Again?
On Sunday, Jozy Altidore did everything except score. He had a nice setup for Clint Dempsey in the eighth minute, which Dempsey wasted. He had an excellent turn with a man on his back in the 14th minute, which he used to earn a corner kick that he subsequently scored (it was called back for a very soft foul).
In the 31st minute, Altidore made a 50-yard run to track down a ball he had no prayer of getting on the end of and, through effort alone, won the ball off a Turkish defender and earned a free-kick just outside the box for the U.S.
In the 37th minute, he had to be taken down near the half line after touching it in behind the Turkish defense. In the 66th minute, he dropped deep to win the ball and start a U.S. attack, which easily could have resulted in a goal had Julian Green taken a better touch. And he had an excellent service to Mix Diskerud in the 79th minute, which Diskerud wasted.
Finally, in the 80th minute, Altidore had a chance himself, but couldn't convert. After a great pass from Diskerud, Altidore cutback a defender in an excellent bit of one-on-one skill, but his shot was saved.
For years, U.S. fans have questioned Altidore's effort, but over the past two games for the U.S., that has been the strongest part of his game.
After a season in which he only scored two goals in all competitions for Sunderland, U.S. fans, and Altidore himself, have to be asking, what is it going to take for him to end up on the scoresheet?
Why Is Julian Green on the Roster?
Julian Green, who only has a grand total of three minutes of first-team football in his entire career, made the U.S. roster for the World Cup. And on Sunday, Green got into his second match for the U.S.
While he does play for Bayern Munich and showed great promise with their reserve team this season, Green was poor on Sunday. His worst moment was in the 66th minute, when he took a bad touch on a fantastic ball from Graham Zusi, wasting a great chance for the U.S. to put the game away. In his short stint as a second-half sub, he also had a number of poor giveaways, including one inside the U.S.' own 18, and failed to make an impact on the offensive end.
While it's understandable that Green may have some butterflies, especially since this was only his second international appearance, the World Cup is only two weeks away and that doesn't leave him any time to learn.
In contrast, Landon Donovan, who sits atop the U.S.' all-time goals and assists leaderboard, is not on the roster. And unless Green makes a significant impact in the World Cup, the question as to why he's on the roster and Donovan isn't won't go away.
Should Timmy Chandler Be a Starter?
After the U.S. loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying in February 2013, many fingers were pointed at Timmy Chandler as a key reason for the loss.
After the game, Chandler disappeared from USMNT activities until the team's World Cup camp began last month. On Sunday, Chandler started at left-back for the U.S., a position which he has played on many occasions at the international level, but rarely plays for his homeland.
One of the impressive things about Chandler's game on Sunday was his work rate. In the 19th minute, he offered good help to Matt Besler to stop a Turkish attack and made two other solid recovery runs in the first half to stop Turkish counters. In the 52nd minute, Chandler's overlap and service created the U.S.' second goal, and in the 60th minute, he recovered well to put pressure on a breakaway after Brad Davis didn't track back defensively.
In the 62nd minute, Chandler also put Clint Dempsey in behind the Turkish defense on a play that was incorrectly ruled offside.
However, in the last five minutes, Chandler's game began to fall apart. As the U.S. was defending the lead late in the game, Chandler gave the ball away on one occasion and then, in the 89th minute, was dispossessed on a play that led to Turkey's only goal.
Chandler's fitness may be a concern, as he did come off an injury late in the Bundesliga season. His inability to play in warm weather was also cited by some as the reason for his poor performance against Honduras early last year.
DaMarcus Beasley, who started regularly for the U.S. during qualifying, is the other potential option. But based on popular opinion, he is not a viable option against the U.S.' group-stage opponents in the World Cup.
The final option would be to switch Fabian Johnson and Chandler as the U.S.' outside backs. Chandler is more comfortable on the right and Johnson, while he played on the right often for Hoffenheim this season, has vast experience at the international and club levels on the left.
Why No Aron Johannsson?
One final question for Klinsmann would be why Aron Johannsson was not used on Sunday.
Johannsson has been one of the brightest prospects for the U.S. over the past year, but rarely gets to play. Clint Dempsey, for his part, wasted multiple key chances and had a number of poor giveaways on Sunday. Dempsey is the U.S. captain, but shouldn't be immune to being withdrawn when he's having a poor game, especially when the U.S. has an option like Johannsson ready to go late in the match.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline