Now that’s more like it! Days after the USMNT defeated Azerbaijan 2-0 in a rather lifeless friendly that in the end turned into an American offensive training exercise, the national team returned to action Sunday, beating Turkey 2-1 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The game was an exciting, back and forth affair between two sides that combined offensive creativity and defensive struggles. Do not let the score fool you, this easily could have been a 5-4 game. Despite being on the defensive for much of the first half, the USMNT led 1-0 heading into the break. Fabian Johnson stole the show, combining with Michael Bradley to deliver a wonderful first time strike for his first international goal.
The USA was able to score their deciding second goal early in the second half. The Turkish defense made a mess out of a clearing attempt, and before anyone knew what had happened, USMNT captain Clint Dempsey had put the ball in the net to make it 2-0. Both teams had several chances throughout the remainder of the game, but a combination of mishits and fine goalkeeping kept the score 2-0. That is, until American left back Timmy Chandler gave away possession to Mustafa Pektemek in a dangerous spot. It led to a penalty shot, which Turkey’s Selcuk Inan buried past Brad Guzan in the 90th minute. Turkey was unable to get an equalizer in stoppage time, and the USMNT improved to 2-0 in their send off series.
There were several bright spots and several areas of concern for the USMNT in the Turkey game. The Yanks were able to up their game against higher quality competition, looking dangerous on offense throughout the match. The defense is still shaky at every position, with communication a major issue. Jürgen Klinsmann and his coaching staff will be looking for improvements before the USMNT’s final friendly versus fellow World Cup side Nigeria this Saturday, June 7.
Dan Popko is still enjoying Europe, but will be back in time for the Nigeria match. All grades are mine alone and scored from 1 to 10, with 10 being best, and one reserved for Jonathan Bornstein.
Tim Howard: 7
Had a busy half of work and made some big saves. Positioning was outstanding. He’s peaking at the perfect time, which is good because he may be busy in Brazil.
Fabian Johnson: 6.5
Struggled defensively throughout the early parts of the match. Made up for it by scoring the USMNT’s prettiest goal of 2014, his first internationally. He’s a valuable asset, and could provide headaches for opponents when he’s in the mood offensively.
Geoff Cameron: 5
Started off the day by committing a stupid foul in a dangerous area, but improved considerably throughout the game. Partnered better with John Brooks than with Matt Besler, which does not bode well for the projected starting central defense tandem. Called for handball in the box, but there wasn’t really much he could do. Communication with his right back needs to be better.
Matt Besler: 5.5
Did a lot of the dirty work in the box during his one half of play. Despite his hard work, Turkish forwards were able to get in behind him. On the bright side, he never stops competing.
Timmy Chandler: 3
His cross into the box in the second half led to Dempsey’s goal, and he was effective getting forward at times. Faded badly down the stretch, inexplicably giving the ball away on the sequence that led to Turkey’s PK. Just pass the damn ball to Brad, Timmy! If he cannot hold up for 90 minutes on a perfect spring day, how will he fare in the brutal heat of the rainforest in two weeks?
Jermaine Jones: 6
The good- was relentless defensively, making play after play to bail out a struggling back line. The bad- had a few sloppy giveaways when trying to distribute to his attackers. I’ll take the good over the bad, as he was vital in protecting the goal. Another halftime sub.
Graham Zusi: 5.5
Was really quiet in the first half. Stepped it up in the second with some nice long range passes as he became a bigger part of the attack. Needs to bring his game up a level to be effective against World Cup competition. Subbed off in the 69th minute.
Brad Davis: 6
Active all day, making smart passes and setting up his forwards. And yes, we know he can hit a dead ball with the best of them. The biggest concern with Davis is his lack of athleticism, which was on display at times against Turkey. Subbed off in the 64th minute.
Michael Bradley: 7
Sharper against Turkey than Azerbaijan, as evidenced by his wonderful pass to spring Johnson on the first American goal. The pass sent a message to his teammates: continue your run, and I’ll find you. Settled into a holding position in the second half, and helped see the game out.
Clint Dempsey: 6
Scored an incredibly easy goal, but deserves credit for not giving up on the play. Showed some flair with his dribbling, bombed a shot into the tenth row and even defended set pieces. He’s fun to watch for sure, although he needs to clean up his passing and positioning.
Jozy Altidore: 7.5
Yes, he did not score and his best chance was stopped by Turkish keeper Onur Kivrak. However, he provided some of the best hold up play of his career, with Turkish defenders bouncing off him like pinballs. If he is willing to impose his wrath on defenders like this, he will be a major force going forward. Man of the match effort.
Brad Guzan: 7
Played the second half and picked up where Howard left off. Made a bunch of big saves to help protect the lead. Guessed right on Inan’s penalty, but the shot was perfect and he never had a chance to keep it out.
DeAndre Yedlin: 6.5
Much was made about how he was caught too far forward at one point on the ESPN broadcast. Not enough was made about his improved 1v1 defending at right back. Made several tackles and competed after coming on for Johnson in the 64th minute. Will still experience growing pains, but this is a step in the right direction.
John Anthony Brooks: 7
Looked hesitant early after coming on at halftime. Morphed into Oguchi Onyewu at his peak midway through the second half, clearing the ball, making smart, yet aggressive tackles and controlling the air. His best performance in the USA shirt, and it’s not close.
Kyle Beckerman: 6
Held down the fort after spelling Jones at halftime. Much of the Turkish attack was down the wings, so he wasn’t incredibly busy. Picked his spots and helped set up the offense. A typical Beckerman appearance.
Julian Green: 4.5
Came on for Davis in the 64th minute and once again struggled. Has the athletic tools right now to be a contributor, but needs to clean up some things. Had a golden opportunity following a beautiful pass from Zusi, but his first touch let him down. A better performance, but still has a long ways to go.
Mix Diskerud: 6
Came on in the 69th minute and had a chance to score again, although he had an awkward first touch off an Altidore cross. Was a pain in the ass for Turkey to deal with on both ends of the field. Was active offensively and was the man who sprinted to cover Yedlin when the latter was caught upfield.