USA vs. Turkey
Sunday, June 1, 2014, 2pm ET
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
Watch on ESPN2, Watch ESPN, Univision, UniMas
On to Round Two of the US national team’s “Send-Off Series.”
And just as Jurgen Klinsmann wanted it, the level of competition ramps up – way up – from their first World Cup warm-up match Tuesday against UEFA pipsqueak Azerbaijan, ranked 85th in the latest FIFA World Rankings. The Yanks travel across the country to face Turkey on Sunday at Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, N.J., a team that placed third in the 2003 Confederations Cup but missed out on a 2014 World Cup berth after finishing fourth in UEFA Group D. The Ay Yildizlilar (Crescent Stars) jumped up four spots to No. 38 in the latest FIFA rankings.
Klinsmann surely took notice after Turkey thumped World Cup-bound Honduras 2- 0 in a friendly Thursday night at RFK Stadium for their fifth straight international victory.
Still, Turkey are an opponent that shouldn’t necessarily cause consternation on paper, especially considering the USMNT’s competition in the so-called “Group of Death” awaiting them in Brazil next month. But after a middling performance in their 2-0 win over Azerbaijan, Klinsmann’s group will certainly be shooting for a more decisive showing to alleviate some worry.
The US have played one other match against Turkey, and it happened to also be a World Cup warmup for Bob Bradley’s men leading up to the 2010 tournament. On May 29 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the Yanks fell behind 1-0 after an Arda Turan goal only to see Jozy Altidore equalize in the 59th minute and Clint Dempsey bag the winner in the 75th.
The din over Klinsmann’s roster cuts has subsided – somewhat – replaced now by the murmuring over the last performance on the field. That murmur will surely turn into a roar if there’s not some improvement shown in the group’s second time out in their “Send-Off Series.” Much of the discussion has been around the 4-4-2 diamond formation – rolled out in the US’ April friendly against Mexico and used again against Azerbaijan – and based on comments from Klinsmann and players it appears to be their first choice for Brazil.
If it’s used again against Turkey, with the outside backs and wingers Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi showing plenty of positives, all eyes will be on forwards Altidore and Dempsey. The two are facing challenges of their own, most notably Dempsey’s much talked-about scratch in the moments before Tuesday’s game with a groin issue and Altidore’s persisting goal drought.
Of course, this is a warmup, so Klinsmann may go with a completely new look. If that’s the case, Tuesday night’s goalscorers, forward Aron Johannsson and midfielder Mix Diskerud, are prime candidates to get a full look. And could this be the game where we see more of youngsters Julian Green, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin?
The Turks come into the game on a fine run of form. Prior to Thursday’s victory against Honduras, they beat Ireland 2-1 on Sunday, routed Kosovo 6-1 last week and beat Sweden 2-1 on March 5 as they turn their attention to UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying, which begins Sept. 9 against Iceland.
Turkey haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 2002 and have only made it three times, but they appear set on making it back in 2018. Head coach Fatih Terim has turned over the program and is trying out a number of young players during this current run of friendlies.
Ahmet Ilhan Ozek and Tarik Camdal scored against Ireland, while Mevlut Erding and Caner Erkin were the goal scorers against Honduras.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
USA – Clint Dempsey
Pending another setback, signs are pointing toward a Dempsey start after he was a late scratch against Azerbaijan with groin soreness. More than anyone, the US captain needs to get on track in the red, white and blue. He hasn’t scored since September of last year, and that was on a penalty kick in a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica. Now, it appears, he also has to show that he’s fully fit.
Turkey – Mevlut Erding
The 27-year-old Saint Étienne striker is one of Turkey’s not-so-young but exciting players stepping into larger roles on the national team. He scored 11 goals with his club last season, and after coming on as a second-half substitute against Honduras, netted a goal from three shots on target and added an assist.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Volkan Babacan (Manisaspor), Onur Kivrak (Trabzonspor), Tolga Zengin (Besiktas)
DEFENDERS (7): Hakan Balta (Galatasaray), Ugur Demirok (Akhisar Bld.), Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe), Gokhan Gonul (Fenerbahce), Semih Kaya (Galatasaray), Omer Toprak (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Ozan Tufan (Bursaspor)
MIDFIELDERS (12): Olcan Adin (Trabzonspor), Hakan Calhanoglu (Hamburger SV), Tarik Camdal (Eskisehirspor), Mevlut Erding (AS Saint-Etienne), Selcuk Inan (Galatasaray), Aydin Karabulut (Sivasspor), Bilal Kisa (Akhisar Bld.), Ahmet İlhan Ozek (Kardemir Karabükspor), Oguzhan Ozyakup (Besiktas), Alper Potuk (Fenerbahçe), Olcay Sahan (Besiktas), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund)
FORWARDS (5): Adem Buyuk (Kasimpasaspor), Ishak Dogan (Kardemir Karabükspor), Mustafa Pektemek (Besiktas), Turgut Dogan Sahin (Gaziantepspor), Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray)