The USMNT started the send off series with a 2-0 win against Azerbaijan in San Francisco, California. Although many feel the result was underwhelming, I thought the game went according to plan for coach Jürgen Klinsmann. His squad faced a team that would be difficult to break down, and would provide a strong test for the USMNT attack. If not for two great saves early, the USA would have led 2-0 going into the break. The Yanks inched closer and closer in the second half, before Mix Diskerud finally got them on the board. After that first goal, the U.S. kept up the pressure, scoring an insurance goal from Aron Jóhannsson off a corner kick.
For send off friendly number two, the USMNT faces Turkey, Sunday June 1 in Harrison, New Jersey. The Turks will provide a vital World Cup tuneup for the United States. Turkey has already begun prepping for Euro 2016 and brought a mix of veterans and youngsters looking to prove their worth. Watch out for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin, who could give both Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones fits in the midfield. If he’s healthy, Atlético Madrid winger Arda Turan will be the best offensive threat that the USA’s defense will face prior to the World Cup. This game should be a fun one.
Finally there’s the simple matter of picking the USA roster. For this game I’m abandoning the diamond 1-2-1 midfield that the USMNT utilized against Mexico and Azerbaijan. Michael Bradley struggled as the attacking mid in that role. For the USA to thrive at this World Cup, I believe that Bradley belongs in the box to box role that has made him the Yanks’ best two-way player since Claudio Reyna. Who joins Bradley in the XI? Find out after the jump.
Goalkeeper: As we get closer to the World Cup, the time has come to start playing your best players as much as possible. That means it’s all Tim Howard from here on out.
Defense: The central defense tandem of Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler were rarely tested against Azerbaijan. Expect that to change against a Turkish side that has a much better track record internationally. Timmy Chandler has been seeing time on the left all throughout camp. However, he struggled to get into a rhythm there in the first send off game. I want to see what he brings at his natural position, right back. Fabian Johnson slides in at left back, where he has more experience than DaMarcus Beasley.
Defensive Midfield: Jermaine Jones played well against Azerbaijan. It was a disciplined performance from a player that too often tries to join the attack at inopportune times. His running mate in the midfield struggled as the attacking midfielder in the diamond midfield. Therefore, let’s put Michael Bradley back in a box to box role, where he has thrived for years under both his father and Klinsmann.
Attacking Midfield: Klinsmann says he plans on starting Clint Dempsey against Turkey, after he was scratched late against Azerbaijan due to a groin issue. If it’s good enough for the boss, it’s good enough for me. He slides into his role in the center of the attacking midfield. Right wing Graham Zusi was a little off his game in the first friendly. He should have more space to operate against Turkey, and needs a strong bounce back performance. I was intrigued with Alejandro Bedoya’s effort in the first half against Azerbaijan. He struggled once he moved to the right after halftime. Brad Davis made a great case to start following his performance Tuesday, but I still like Bedoya as the answer on the wing.
Forward: If I was going to use the 4-1-2-1-2 box midfield formation Jozy Altidore would be riding the pine. However, he is still the best lone striker in the USMNT pool. Once again, he needs to score a goal. Badly. He went the distance against Azerbaijan, but expect a shorter leash if things go awry against Turkey.
Steve Fogarty’s Starting XI
——————– Howard ——————–
Chandler — Cameron —– Besler — Johnson
———– Bradley ———– Jones ———–
Zusi ———— Dempsey ———— Bedoya
——————— Altidore ———————