Turkey React: Withering Back And Forth

Submitted by Brian on June 3rd, 2014 at 12:39 PM

6/1/2014 – USA 2, Turkey 1

Got damn. The best soccer goals come with a kind of low OHAAAAWWWWWW from the crowd. That particular noise comes when half the crowd is cheering normally while the other half goes "OHHHHHH" because they've just seen something about as difficult as the moon landing in person. Bradley to Fabian Johnson was a moon landing of a goal.

Clint Dempsey's was not, but they all count.

Full highlights.

Paging World Cup horrors past. That ref had better not approach a USA game that counts. Whether he was ignoring a zillion clear fouls on Altidore or elbowing a Turk in the face when he should have been 90 feet closer to the Turkish net in case Dempsey had earned a penalty, this game was an exercise in frustration similar to Slovenia 2010 or Ghana 2006.

Jozy is fine. I generally like Taylor Twellman but his incessant harping on Jozy Altidore not putting a ball in the net (despite putting a ball in the net that was disallowed by a shaky and definitely irrelevant foul) drove me nuts in this game.

Twellman waxed to his worst on second-half "opportunity" he didn't hear whistled down but everyone watching ESPN did, and it seemed like Altidore and the Turks also mostly did. Altidore put a shot off the keeper and Twellman went into his usual refrain about confidence and mystical fairies and all that stuff that people who haven't thought about how brains work always do. Sometimes things happen, random things. Especially when you're Jozy Altidore and you've seen about six quality scoring opportunities since your goal drought started.

It got worse. A few minutes later, Twellman praised Altidore for blasting a shot off a charging keeper that would have been a simple tap-in for Bradley if Altidore had laid it off. Altidore did well to create the chance, but if there was a problem with Altidore's game in this one it was not his lack of ruthlessness but that pressing for goal that caused him to make a wrong decision.

Not that he was the only US player with that issue. After the Davis handball play saw Graham Zusi run on to a ball at the back post, this was a shot:


A tap-in for Jozy if Zusi gets it right. Does that make him a better player in this game?

This was not a problem for the Dutch in the first five minutes against future US foe Ghana. Faced with a similar opportunity, Arjen Robben laid it off for Robin Van Persie, who passed it into the back of the open net. Robben proceeded to blow an absolute sitter and a couple other grade-A chances, but because he's not part of a culture that yells at LeBron James for kicking it to a wide-open Donyell Marshall for a game-winning three* that he happens to miss, no one's going "blah blah blah confidence strikers blah."

Take the shot when it's the move; pass when it's the move. Heroball is garbage. San Antonio Spurs, you know?

*[Dated reference but the perfect one.]

RIGHT: JOZY IS FINE. I know I said he wasn't a hold up guy and never will be but he's really trying. He does lack that flick-on and isn't technical enough to be great in that role, but he's the only one with anything resembling that skillset. It's clear now that the US is going to need it from time to time, and he's trying.

As much as they would like to be a possession side there are going to be times where the US does have to blerg it upfield. Jozy's going to be the guy who turns that into anything. Unless you think Johannsson can do that there's no substitute.


Davis + Chandler on D in one image

Chandler is not fine. For some reason the USMNT internet has been desperately trying to replace DaMarcus Beasley since he became the USA's starting left back by default. I acknowledge he is not world-class but for Christ's sake he's gone three years without anything near as bad as two different things Tim Chandler pulled in the Turkey match. There was the pathetic turnover that led to the Turkey goal and the alarming 50-yard ball that led to a quality Guzan save on which Chandler and Davis were both vastly out of position. The same thing led to a corner in the first half.

Meanwhile, Chandler is right footed, so it is awkward pairing him with an in-cutting left midfielder like Bedoya. Chandler should be at the back of the bus now. Beasley and Johnson are your starting outside backs and if one of them is unavailable I'd rather see Brooks (with Cameron sliding outside) or Yedlin than Chandler.

Also not fine: Brad Davis. If you're going to play a diamond your outside midfielders need to be defensive presences. They end up narrow, usually, and need to track back because the second central midfielder ends up way up the pitch as a third dedicated attacker. In this game the US had to pull Bradley back in the second half because neither outside midfielder had any interest, really, in tracking back. Zusi was at least positioned in a place where he could do something most of the time; Davis was not. Turkey spent the day destroying the USA's left flank.

The first truly dangerous Turkey chance came off a corner kick that got reset; Chandler was asked to defend two guys.


left side of your screenshot—two Turks, one USA guy

I know it looks like Jermaine Jones was available to deal with this but he is not; he ends up having to apply emergency pressure on a Turkish player who ends up cutting it back to the shooter. Davis is at the top of the 18; he heads a ball forward, sees it turned over, and walks the rest of the play instead of tracking back to the position he's vacated. His guy puts one off the post. (Fabian Johnson is out of position as well, but overall his flank was way less threatened.)

Another Turkish scoring chance came because Davis vacated the entire left side of the field.


While the diamond midfielders do tend to pack in tight, Davis was generally a lot narrower than Zusi, leading to attack after attack down the left flank on which Chandler was asked to shut down acres of space; a primary reason that the US was conceding huge chunks of space was Davis's failure to exist without the ball. He had neither the pace nor the interest to show up.


Zusi is at the bottom; look how wide he is compared to Davis despite the ball being to Davis's wing.

You'd think the guy obviously on the roster because Landon is not would show on defense. I found myself missing Herculez Gomez in this game.

In the second half, Bradley was withdrawn when the US was without the ball and the chances stopped coming so fast and furious, and maybe that's how it has to be. Someone's going to have to cover a pile of space in the World Cup. Brad Davis clearly isn't. Bradley is going to have to be that guy, with Dempsey dropping to provide a link from defense to attack.

So don't judge Jones too badly. The post I just linked prefers Beckerman to Jones but I don't think they make a particularly convincing case. Jones was given too much to do in the first half since neither US winger made any defensive impact; Beckerman came on at the same time the US started dropping Bradley to provide more cover. Notably, the turnover they approvingly note Beckerman caused came as Bradley pressured a guy in a similar position to the guy with acres of space above.

It would have been just as bad in the first half with Beckerman, because Chandler cannot replicate himself.

I don't want to toot the ol' horn too much, but the second half setup is something I suggested would be the USA's best look:

I would prefer something like the 4-4-2 diamond they tried out in a recent friendly, with Bradley dropping back when faced with opponent possession and  Dempsey moving under Altidore to provide an outlet and link to Altidore up top.

This game showed both that the US does need Bradley's defensive abilities and cannot spare him from attack. It's going to be a long, tiring WC for Bradley, but that's how it has to be.

The Shin Guardian does have an instance where the midfield's general cluelessness is an issue, and Jones is one of the problems:


This gets played square away from all four midfielders; Jones ends up going upfield at the guy, and Turkey is on a break off what initially looked like an innocuous play. Bad decisions all around here; TSG is right that Jones's instincts to attack rather than hold were dangerous to the US at times here.

Green: nope. He won't play at the World Cup.

Brooks: maybe. But Brooks overcame some nervous moments early to put in an impressive performance that demonstrated he has a pretty rare combination of agility and aerial ability. He has been playing well for his club of late, in contrast with Green, and at the position he's being asked to play here, in contrast with Chandler. With Gonzalez in something of a funk he might be your third option at center back.


  • Davis and Zusi cannot play together. They're very similar players; the US needs more defense from the wing. IMO, Davis just disqualified himself from the first two games of the group stage. He is a disaster waiting to happen against Ayew or Nani, and his service is only marginally better than Zusi's.
  • Viva Beasley. He's a little malformed but he's ours, and if he gets run over that's life. At least he'll be in the right spot, not making an utter hash of things.
  • The diamond cannot be on defense unless Bedoya works like a donkey. While the idea—get Bradley upfield—is the right idea, leaving him upfield is only tenable if you're able to apply smart, high pressure consistently. The US doesn't have the wingers or forwards to do this, so against teams who aren't bunkered in Bradley will have to shuttle back or it's going to be a lot of what we saw against Turkey. Bedoya's presumed start against Nigeria will be the most interesting thing about that game.
  • I'm agnostic on Jones or Beckerman. Seems obvious that it will be Jones, but that seems like a 50/50 battle as to whether that's the right decision.
  • Leaving Donovan off this roster looks pretty bad right now. Whatever his flaws, Donovan has been a committed defender throughout his USA career and provides something other than "Graham Zusi but left-footed."



June 3rd, 2014 at 12:52 PM ^

Please stop dedicating coverage of the euro sport known as futball.  We like real football in this country and prefer coverage of anything about "football" than coverage of what one would consider the most exciting of "futbal" games...which are the equivalent of watching paint dry.


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:04 PM ^

*puts on mod cap*

As a friendly reminder since you appear to be new to posting, although not new to the blog per se, common courtesy demands that your lack of interest is best displayed by your silence in threads that do not interest you. Also, as the article is being written by the person who founded this site and World Cup and soccer coverage are fairly routine and well-received (and there is a very sizeable audience for it here) during the OT season here, it may very well be a good idea for you to sit this one out lest your posting career be cut tragically short. 

*removes mod cap*

Voltron Blue

June 3rd, 2014 at 3:41 PM ^


How about, don't profess to speak for what others are interested in reading.

You can have a criticism...one example would be, "I highly disagree that Klinsmann made the wrong call on Donovan, for reasons (a) and (b)."

If you don't believe World Cup Soccer is relevant on this blog, then you should probably reframe your expectations, but more seriously as others have suggested...just ignore those posts.




June 3rd, 2014 at 3:46 PM ^

As further explanation, your offering above was not exactly an opinion. Indeed, you:

A) Asked the founder of this site - a huge soccer fan - to not cover a sport he clearly enjoys. 

B) Presumed to speak for the readers, many of whom do not share your view on the relevancy of this coverage.

C) Offered only an insult to something others enjoy.

If there was a coherent opinion in there, I apologize for missing it. This is why - if all you have to say is what you said - it is far more tactful to simply hold back. 


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:15 PM ^

Is futbol. In fact, our version of football is the grandchild of soccer.

The richest single sports organization in the world is Manchester United.

Approximately half of the population is a fan of soccer.

So basically, YOU may not care about soccer, but please don't speak for all of us.


June 3rd, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

"I love the site."  I'm not sure if you know what that word means.  Just a brief glance at your point total and it seems you must find a lot of it disagreeable. 

We all free you from this relationshp mcbronco.  I know it's hard to imagine it now, but there may be a more enjoyable place for you out there.  


June 3rd, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

Clearly you missed the disclaimer a week or so ago about this site becoming a pseudo-World Cup blog for the next month because Brian likes writing about the World Cup. There's your connection.

And I think you vastly underestimate the popularity of soccer.


June 3rd, 2014 at 5:15 PM ^

Don't click on articles about soccer.

Here's a relevant tidbit for you. Real Madrid and Manchester United have a friendly match in the Big House in August. The game was sold out in a half an hour. Care to explain why 100,000 people would buy tickets to a sport that isn't popular in the US?


June 4th, 2014 at 1:08 PM ^

Brian likes writing about the WC, and I enjoy his perspective and his breakdown of this Turkey game and thought it was excellent.  mcbronco, I am not a fan of Hockey or Baseball, but instead of going on a topic that discusses those sports and bashing everyone who likes those sports, i just refrain from clicking enter on said topic.  You clearly are in the minority in your opinion of soccer here, so you might want to just ignore these posts, instead of setting the record for negative points here.


June 3rd, 2014 at 2:07 PM ^

Gahhh, I'm going to show you all how much I don't like something by taking time out of my day to click on it and then comment about it and leave myself open to criticism. That'll show you all! muahaha!

Yinka Double Dare

June 3rd, 2014 at 1:01 PM ^

Fortunately, the guy we need to be running like a madman for days is the fittest guy on the roster. 

But yeah, maybe they play the 4-2-3-1 some that they have done a lot over the last couple of years but that's probably going to be in a game like Germany where they're severely out-talented and probably need the extra defensive help.  Evans could conceivably play in that formation as long as Beasley is the left back.  But I think it's got to be Beasley-Bedoya on the left side starting every match if possible, especially with the 4-4-2 diamond.

Beckerman is a good sub for Jones when we're holding a lead, and given Jones' proclivity for picking up cards, there's a good chance we need ol' dreadlocks to start a game if the team gets out of the group stage.


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:12 PM ^

The commentary on the sports world's obsession with confidence/heroball is absolutely correct.  "MJ would have taken that shot," or "he doesn't have that fire," etc.  Miles of bullshit that leads to hilarious end game scenarios where teams double team Kobe rather than cover open shooters because they know that Kobe cares about being the kind of guy that takes the shot more than actually getting a high percentage shot.


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

The real fallacy of that culture is that fact that Michael Jordan, the guy who hit numerous game winning shots in his storied career was always more than willing to kick it out to guys like John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington, etc when that was the right move.

"but because he's not part of a culture that yells at LeBron James for kicking it to a wide-open Donyell Marshall for a game-winning three* that he happens to miss"

I remember the exact play Brian is referencing above.  The post game commentary about how Lebron lacked courage/heart/killer instinct was ridiculous, and I couldn't help but think that if Donyell Marshall had made that wide open corner three then all of the talking heads lambasting Lebron would instead be hailing him as the second coming of Magic Johnson and praising his unselfishness.  It's nice to see sportswriting that sees the big picture is out there...the fact that it is free is all the better.

More World Cup please. 


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

The constant double-speak on Jozy drives me crazy. "He's a confidence striker!" "But he never gets any chances!" "He's not a target forward!" "But he's built like one!" "He scored bucketloads in the Eredivisie!" "But not in the Premier League!"

Look, I get Jozy Altidore isn't perfect, but Brian hits the nail on the head. He was perfectly good in his movement, causing Turkey's defenders to keep passing him off to the other guy and causing them to step up. Just look at the Johnson goal: 



June 3rd, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

Is the Doug Fister move by USA soccer. If it makes sense, no one has yet to explain it to me.

Twellman is relatively good amongst the American analysts that are poor commentators who act like they have achieved something in their soccer lives. Eric Wynalda is the worst for his utter arrogance and complete misunderstanding of how the game is officiated.


June 3rd, 2014 at 2:57 PM ^

set forth Dombrowski's motivation in making the trade--and I suspect that the commentor knew this.  He just disagrees that it was the right move--and I tend to agree with him.  And sending Lombardozzi to the Orioles for 3-4 weeks of Alex Gonzalez is ostensibly a waive (or another miscue by Dombrowski).  Let me be clear that Dave is entitled to a couple of questionable trades--plus the benefit of the doubt--given his primo track record.


June 3rd, 2014 at 4:38 PM ^

Robbie Ray and Ian Krol develop, not this year but in the future. I don't think the trade is as bad as many make it out to be. Is it great? No, but DD has a great track record on trades that may seem like a bad one to begin with only to realize that he's a genius to have a foresight to find players that fits what the organization needs.


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:36 PM ^

Beasley didn't even play and his stock rose higher than anyone not named Fabian Johnson after Sunday's game.

Klinsmann's record of starting players at new positions has not been good--Chandler at LB, Danny Williams at Right Mid, Kljestian as Central Holding Mid...don't get why he keeps doing it. 


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:20 PM ^

My Irish friend, who I trust knows way more about soccer than I because he's not an American (that's usually enough of a qualification for me to concede expertise on soccer) said the reason Donovan was left off the team was because of his poor defense.


June 3rd, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

Drink every time he bitterly mentions going to South Africa but not playing in a match. I feel bad his career was cut short but dude, c'mon. Save it for Twitter and not during a game.