USMNT: Turkey Good, Bad, Ugly Comment Count

Brian June 1st, 2010 at 12:37 PM

clint-dempsey-turkey-goal Note: starting now and until the Nats get the boot from the WC, USMNT stuff will hit the front page here.

Well, what can you take from that? At halftime I was sure the USA was going three-and-out at the World Cup after a dismal showing that saw the one good US chance something Jozy Altidore created entirely on his own versus a series of knee-buckling counter-attacks from Turkey that repeatedly caught US midfielders out of position. Doom.

Four subs and 45 minutes later… hey… a result against a basically A-level Turkey team that's got a considerably better Silver ranking (24) than either Slovenia (35) or Algeria (a stunning 64th, well behind South Africa and ahead of only minnow-tastic New Zealand and North Korea). And a deserved one. Bring on England.



Jose Torres. I can put many words down or I can point you to the five minutes that cover every touch Torres had in the Turkey game:

That is five solid minutes of possession and passing porn. Torres's composure on the ball reminded me of the Holland friendly earlier this year. In that dismal loss, whenever the USA would put the Dutch in a tough spot in the midfield they would keep it with deft touches and accurate passes; the US would either lose it or dump it back to Demerit, who would hoof it upfield. That was kind of what the first half was like with Ricardo Clark swinging back towards wildly useless—it's always one or the other with him. Enter Torres and the world changes. That highlight reel is composure under pressure and a wide array of great passes that break pressure and set the US up in space that simply did not exist in the first half.

After the Czech friendly I praised Torres's work but suggested his general "uselessness" defensively would keep him from seeing the field in the World Cup because he'd be a substitute and Bradley would favor the relatively more established Benny Feilhaber. I would like to backtrack on that as rapidly as possible. I'm not an extremely bald man with a furrowed brow and more soccer experience than scalp shine, so I can't rule out the possibility that against some of the USA's first-round opponents the tactical situation will call for an Edu or Clark or (I guess) Feilhaber. But I want Torres to start. I think it makes sense, too, with England's central midfielders not exactly the guys who will make Torres's diminutive stature and lack of raw speed an issue.

Robbie Findley. Findley, like Torres, has seen a groundswell of internet support for a potential starting role—enough that Greg Lalas (yes that Lalas) has offered a "settle down, folks." I'd like to cosign that: you're choosing between Findley and Stuart Holden here. Holden was perhaps the USA's best player against the Czechs and has been so impressive with Bolton that they've offered him two contract extensions in the last six months. He's real good.

Findley, meanwhile, blew everyone's minds with the chip pass that set up the USA's first goal and put himself into the conversation as a potential substitute, but let's not get ahead of ourselves: it was Torres, not Findley, that produced the sea change in the amount of space and time the Nats had in the second half.

Steve Cherundolo. After an iffy to bad game against the Czechs—gave away possession a lot—may have forced himself into a starting role by controlling Arda Turan much more effectively than Jonathan Spector did. Also got forward effectively in the second half once the US, spurred by Torres, found itself in a position to use overlapping fullbacks effectively. The choice at RB may come down to how threatening the opponent's wingers are, with Cherundolo taking the tough ones and Spector offering a more attacking option against potentially less sturdy opposition.

Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey. All three are in the same category as players who either scored or set up scores—Donovan assisted on both—but still left something to be desired. For Donovan it was a little backtracking and an ability to get involved in the game in the first half. Dempsey impact was limited until his goal.

As for Altidore, this first highlight was brilliant…

…and he had a few other decent touches, but didn't have any other chances. The goal, well… it's nice that he's in the right spot but most people reading this blog could have finished it.

Still, these are caveats: X did not do this except for this one brilliant thing against a good opponent. Dempsey's ability to run onto the Donovan pass after deflecting it with his hip and then fire it through the keeper seemed fluky, but eventually when you keep doing ridiculous fluky things they cease being fluky.

I'd leave him up top. He'll need service to get involved in the game but no one on the roster makes goals out of seemingly nothing like he does. (Yes, he had moved back to midfield for that goal.)

Carlos Bocanegra. Is the holiest of holy locks to start at left back.

Stuart Holden. Holden didn't get much time but his cameo was productive; he was the guy who picked out Michael Bradley and put him in alone. Speaking of…

The Meh

Michael Bradley. Had a major part in both the ineffective first half and very effective second half. See the above Torres reel for an indication of where he falls flat—better control on that pass leaves him in a ton of space moving at the D. There was also the fantastic run to get him one-on-one with the keeper late… and the pass that resulted. Bradley scored 17 goals in the Dutch league one season, so he can and should be shooting there. It wasn't a horrible decision since Dempsey did get off a shot that clipped the post, but, man, one on one with the keeper any international level midfielder should be shooting.

More important as far as Bradley's role on the team: the spacing and lack of tackles in the first half was at least partially on him. I don't know how much. Again, this doesn't matter much as far as the starting lineups for the WC: he's played every game, he starts in the Bundesliga, he's the coach's kid, he's an automatic start.

Tim Howard. Could maybe have saved the Turkey goal but tough to blame him; didn't really have much to do other than that except a couple of shots that were directly at him. Minor plus: got in some serious "I have Tourette's guys, in case you forgot" screaming at the defense in the first half.

Center back roulette. Onyewu had an encouraging second half, charging down a potentially lethal shot in the box and doing some unnecessarily high jumping on uncontested balls in an effort to prove that his error against the Czechs was not indicative of his fitness.

Demerit and Goodson, on the other hand, were kind of shaky, Goodson most prominently. To be fair, they were put in a lot of bad positions by midfielders getting out of position in the first half and shaky play from at least one fullback at all times (the window between Spector coming out and Bornstein coming on. But the errors from others exposed a certain lack of mobility that I don't recall a healthy Onyewu displaying. I think they have to grit their teeth and hope for the best with Gooch.

The Bad

Jonathan Spector. May have lost his job in the first half after putting in a pretty ugly performance defensively. I'm not talking about the run that eventually led to the Turkey goal, as there were a couple of passes and some midfield pressure from the US that delayed the Turkey counter and should have let either Donovan or Clark rotate back; neither did. I think that's mainly on Donovan because of his positioning on the field but Clark's supposed to be a defensive mid, so I can see the school of thought that puts the blame on him.

Anyway, when Spector was in position his defending was poor to say the least; I don't know if that's an anomaly but since people who pay more attention to the EPL than I do claim he was amongst the weakest left backs in the league it might not be. Cherundolo shook off a poor game against the Czechs and was an immediate upgrade defensively. Against England and their blazing wingers this will be important.

Ricardo Clark.  It was obvious that he was having a bad game even before Torres came on and almost singlehandedly swung the flow of play. Clark's played in just three club matches since the end of the MLS season and the rust was apparent. Even at the best of times he's marginal with the ball at his feet (unless he's uncorking a shot from distance); against Turkey he never even got to display this limitation because he never won the ball. If it wasn't Donovan's job to rotate back it was definitely Clark's. Torres, meanwhile, had 41 appearances for Pachuca across competitions last year.

The Ugly

Jonathan Bornstein. It's come to this: when he came on for the final 15 minutes yesterday I was rooting for him to get smoked just so Bradley would not be tempted to put him on the field in virtually any circumstance in the World Cup. Even with that background, Bornstein still managed to disappoint, getting skinned three(!) times in his brief cameo and getting lucky on a late offside trap that did not work except in the eyes of the linesman.

I'd send him home with an injury and call up Frankie Hedjuk. Seriously. I'd think about bringing in Tony Sanneh.


Next up: the last friendly, this against fellow World Cup participant Australia in South Africa. It's at 8:30 AM on Saturday. With a full week until the England match, the US can put whoever it wants on the field without worrying about fitness, so I'm guessing we'll see Onyewu and Holden go the full 90 in an effort to get them as match fit as possible. Bocanegra may also fit into that category after his surprise hernia surgery.

One man's starting lineup for the Socceroos:

Cherundolo    Onyewu   Demerit   Bocanegra
Holden        Bradley  Torres    Donovan
              Dempsey  Altidore

I assume both Dempsey and Altidore will make way for some combo of Gomez/Buddle/Findley, Spector will be given a shot to decide the RB position, and the central midfield will also see a healthy amount of rotation. Donovan will probably get lifted for Beasley just so nothing horrible happens.



June 1st, 2010 at 2:15 PM ^

Unfortunately, Bornstein really is the 7th best back line defender we have, he's just out of his depth at the international level. The USMNT has come a long way though, because normally Bornstein would be the Jeff Agoos of the backline.


June 1st, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

Bornstein has had a few games where he's done fine, and he's perfect for some CONCACAF qualification matches. Depth is important during the absurdly long CONCACAF WCQ process, but if he's seeing significant minutes in the WC Finals something has gone terribly wrong.


June 1st, 2010 at 10:53 PM ^


Just wondering, what is so absurdly long about CONCACAF's qualifying process?  I'm not being snarky, just genuinely interested.  

By way of comparison if one looks at UEFA, and the teams which finished second in their group and thus went to another round, those teams played 18 games throughout the qualifying process.  That's really not much different than CONCACAF.

 Personally, I think FIFA has it right... no computers, no BCS, no crap... it's settled on the field and in a manner which weeds out the pretenders.

Well, except if you're a cheese eating surrender monkey handling the ball... or Mexico who gets a higher seed for the draw even though they didn't win their confederation... but I digress.


June 8th, 2010 at 11:00 PM ^

A maximum of 12 games - 10 games in the group plus the playoff. Not counting inter-confederation playoffs (Costa Rica-Uruguay and Bahrain-New Zealand this time around), the max for each confederation is:

  • CONCACAF 20 (top third get a one-round bye which reduces it to 18)
  • CONMEBOL (S Am) 18
  • AFC (Asia) 18 (top 5 teams only need 14, the 11 highest-ranked survivors of the first round get to skip the second and only need 16)
  • CAF (Africa) 14 (only for the bottom few who have to play a preliminary round; most only need 12)
  • OFC (Oceania) 14 for anyone but New Zealand; New Zealand gets a bye into the second round and only needs 8
  • UEFA 12 (10 if you were in the lone 5-team group and made the playoff OR won your group outright; 8 for the winner of the 5-team group)


June 1st, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

OK - I need just a little help.  My fiancee is Latin, and her family gets way into the WC.  I always played football, never really played soccer, and thus never followed too closely.  Most of them weren't born in the US, so they don't really have much US nationalism and hate on American soccer a lot.  I try to defend the US, but my knowledge isn't really enough to do so.

Do we (the US) have a shot here?  I saw that if we take second in our group we probably play Germany in the first round, and they'll be tougher than England.  What's best case scenario for the Americans this year?  Does our Confederation Cup run bode well for us, or does it not mean a whole lot?


June 1st, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

According to the bookies, the US is expected to finish 2nd in the group and then lose in the Round of 16 against an opponent TBD. Mexico is in almost exactly the same boat.

Taking that a bit further -- gives the US the 12th-shortest odds on making the final 8 (4.4) and final 4 (11.5). A run to the quarterfinals would be unexpected but not completely unreasonable.

Braylon Edwards

June 1st, 2010 at 1:14 PM ^

Although Germany has a very good track record of performing in the World Cup they are without their captain Michael Ballack and their star strikers Miroslav Klose (6) and Lukas Podolski (3) scored all of 9 goals between them in 60+ club matches and have been in awful form. I don't think they'll win their group, and we'll see Serbia in the first knockout stage, who won their qualifying group that included France. And I think we'll have a least a punchers chance against the Serbs. Then there would probably be Argentina, who might have the worst coach in the World Cup and barely qualfied, but who have tremendous firepower in their attack with Milito, Messi, Tevez, and Higuan who all scored 20+ in the top 3 European leagues this year. So I would predict the USA finishing 2nd in the group, beating Serbia in the round of 16, then bowing out to Argentina in quarters.


June 1st, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

I am a huge Messi fan, so I notice these things:

You might want to revise the part about Leo to say: "Messi scored 46+ goals for Barcelona this year.'

He tied Ronaldo's (the first one) single season scoring record.

He's 22.

He's he best in the world and already a top-10 all time talent, and if Argentina wins the WC, he'll have accomplished more, trophy-wise, at age 22 than Maradona did in his entire career.


June 1st, 2010 at 4:41 PM ^

While it is a nice feel good thing that the American team got into the World Cup, they have no realistic shot of winning.  If they cannot beat the Dutch squad in a friendly that does not mean a thing, how are they going to beat Spain, Portugal and Brazil who are all ranked higher than the Netherlands. 

Watch the games, have fun with it, but know going in that you have a 0% chance of winning the World Cup.


June 1st, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

"How are they going to beat Spain, Portugal and Brazil who are all ranked higher than the Netherlands?"

Seriously???  Dos a cero mean anything to you?  The US is still inconsistent, but on their best day can beat anyone, including the #1 team in the world (last year),  or Portugal (2002), or Brazil (1998).  Besides, we've won just as many World Cups as the Dutch. 


June 1st, 2010 at 6:16 PM ^

Are you serious?  You sound serious.  The best the US squad has ever done in the World Cup it third, and that was in 1930!  While the American squad has had moments where they have played above themselves, for the most part they are a footnote on global football. 

I am sure you have never heard of Totaalvoetbal [Total Football] or of the 1974 team that were it not for the home filed advantage of the Germans elevating their game, they might have won it all.  A video of Total played the way Americans have never played the game...

And the highlight reel of the 1974 Dutch World Cup run...

Enjoy...the American squad, while their aspirations are high, have a ways to go before the fan base can start thumping their chest and thinking they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Dutch squad... there recent WC tune up match showed very well...

still ill

June 1st, 2010 at 7:50 PM ^

It's not actually a "feel good" story for the US to qualify for the World Cup, since unlike the Dutch we've qualified for six consecutive. Maybe you didn't notice our quarterfinal run in 2002 since the Oranje weren't even in that tournament.

I'm not sure you were really watching the recent friendly, either, since both Dutch goals were gifts from our reserve left back Bornstein, who was deployed experimentally (maybe foolishly?) at centerback for the friendly. As Brian notes above, this guy probably won't even step on the field for us in South Africa.

I understand you're proud of your team, but there's no reason to be so dismissive of ours. We're coming to the World Cup to play some damn ball, and we should expect to advance from our group. We're not great, but we're getting better every year and we're here to stay.

So don't hate. Your glory years are behind you, ours are in front of us.


June 1st, 2010 at 1:10 PM ^

The starting line-up Brian put up seems pretty locked in, and I feel good about that team.  However, how is it that the US has only 1 striker and 2.5 fullbacks who are no-brainers for the WC, but we have about 9 high-quality midfielders to choose from?  What would our best XI look like?  A 2-7-1? 

And WolvinLA2, just relax.  We (like 95% of all countries) aren't really in it to win the whole thing.  Just getting out of the group stage is a big deal for all but a handful of countries.  The two big things this time are trying to beat England, and seeing if they can win a game in the round of 16 (probably against Germany).


June 1st, 2010 at 1:20 PM ^

Very true, perspective is important here. Saw a stat earlier today: only 4 teams have advanced to the round of 16 in each of the last 4 World Cups (Brazil, Germany, Italy and Mexico). Obviously you don't group Mexico among the true contenders -- but what does that say about the countries who do consider themselves contenders (Argentina, France, England, Holland)? If even they find it tough to get past the first round every time, then you know how big a deal it is.

[email protected]

June 1st, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

I'd chalk that up to small-sample-size randomness.  When you only have 10-12 truly international-level players, they're not always going to be nicely distributed across a standard soccer lineup.

The positive spin, I guess, is that the upside on this team is higher than it was for the traditional U.S. lineups that were solid in the back but lacking creativity up front.  As untested as the forward group is, the Donovan/Dempsey/Altidore trio is oozing with scoring potential relative to what previous U.S. squads have brought to the WC.


June 1st, 2010 at 1:13 PM ^

Torres needs to be on the field. He just sees the game better than any of the other CBs and is able to make the passes that change the flow of play. The crossfield ball he plays to Boca in those clips is the perfect example, as are the couple examples of short passes from tight positions that spring players running forward. The only other player that does that on the US team is Feilhaber, but he always seems to drift out of the game in a way that Torres doesn't.  Torres always worked to make himself available as an outlet, even dropping behind the CBs to give Howard options, in doing that, he links the defense and midfield with the attack, which is where the US always falls into trouble. The US gives up some defensive strength to put him in, and Bradley will need to be more disciplined and chase less, but he really makes the US more dangerous.

Tha Quiet Storm

June 1st, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

the exact starting lineup that I'd like to see.  I was favoring Edu to start in the middle next to Bradley, but Torres really stepped up and showed me something against Turkey.  He may not be as big and physical as Edu or even Clark, but his skill with the ball and his improved defense make him the best option.  I think he made huge strides with Pachuca over the course of the season and we are just now beginning to see the results.


June 1st, 2010 at 4:19 PM ^

Like Brian I want Torres to start.  I follow US players playing int. and I was always upset that Bradley never gave Torres any pt.  The role of a midfielder is to turn defense into offense and he does that much better than Clark. 


June 1st, 2010 at 1:23 PM ^

Bradley passing to Dempsey was baffling.  He was a few yards from goal.  The crowd was great at the game (55K) and surpassed my expectations.  How did it sound on TV?

Brian's lineup seems pretty on.  I don't see Spector losing his job even though he doesn't deserve to keep it.   want to see Beasley and Gomez get a look in the final tune up and see if they are really going to contribute in South Africa.


June 1st, 2010 at 1:27 PM ^

Can we get a youtube breakdown of Bornstein like Torres??  I'd be curious how bad his play looked to someone not engrossed in the sport, because while I played it, I never got hooked on it and I think the big thing for me in getting with the sport as a spectator is understanding the strategy at an elite level. 


June 1st, 2010 at 1:40 PM ^

Can I just say that I told you so regarding Torres.  He's diminutive but his skill-set is the complete package. 

Great that he got a chance to show it since it seems the primary qualification for midfield on the USMNT is the ability to play well with the coach's kid

Big Boutros

June 1st, 2010 at 1:43 PM ^

His kit it proved he was a Yank
Torres, Torres
He's got his mom and dad to thank
Torres, Torres
A Texas man, he takes the pitch
Our hopes arise, our fortunes switch
Jose Torres, America's twenty-six!


June 1st, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

I was at the game on Saturday.  Great atmosphere for the US - 55,000 fans and i'd say at least 80% of them supporting the US.  Whenever Turkish fans tried to chant the US fans would drown them out.  Very cool from a fan standpoint that US fans are getting more and more into the games and providing a home field advantage. 

I would start the same starting 11 as Brian, except I would push Dempsey back to midfield and have Findley start up top.  The US tends to do better when they have a player with pace to stretch the defence (Charlie Davies / Findley) and this allows room in between the strikers and midfield for Donovan and Dempsey to maneuver and create/score.  For the England game I can see Bradley being conservative and using players from the start that play in England/Scotland which would presumably have Edu in for Torres and Holden or Beasley in for Findley (starting Dempsey up top).  England looks like it will be missing Barry for that game so it'll be interesting to see who will be England's center defensive mid and if the US can exploit that position. 


June 1st, 2010 at 3:08 PM ^

Findley made one great pass but has otherwise been a non-entity for club and country for six months. He was totally ineffective against the Dutch and wasted most of his possession against Turkey... picking him over Holden, who has played very well for the Nats over the past year and made an impressive move to the Premiership, so you can put the team's best natural goalscorer in the midfield seems insane. I love Grant Wahl but I can't believe so many people are gaga over Findley now.


June 1st, 2010 at 3:47 PM ^

I think you are being a little off base here as nobody is saying Findley is better than Holden, that would be absurd.  The argument is really that Dempsey is MUCH more effective and dangerous in a wing mid role and Findley can use his speed up front to stretch the field, pressure the backs, and get back on D for an overlapping Dempsey/Donovan runs.  Having the holding/speed forward combo (Altidore/Findley) is very tough to defend and is essentially what allowed us into the Conferderations Cup final (stingy defense and lucky bounces helped too).  

I say let him start, have their back line chase him around for 60 minutes then bring Holden on for him and push Dempsey up top for the final 30.  Its not a one-to-one comparison here, its more of a tactical decision.

Also, I want to throw my support behind more soccer posts


June 1st, 2010 at 2:10 PM ^

I know it looked flukey, and it wasn't the obviously sublime peice of work that the first goal was, but Dempsey's goal is extremely tough to pull off. First, that touch off the hip right into his own path wasn't an accident. It's an extremely deft and difficult thing to do in my experience. Second, that finish looked ugly, but it was really the only way he could have scored at that angle. If you listen to his post-game interview, you realize that he did mean to do it.


June 1st, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

"I assume both Dempsey and Altidore will make way for some combo of Gomez/Buddle/Findley,"

Holden is probably first in line to get subbed out, because Dempsey is one of the fittest guys on the team (you don't score the big late goals like he does if you aren't) and Holden can't be 100% match fit coming off of that broken foot/ankle.


June 1st, 2010 at 2:20 PM ^

Dempsey is not coming out of the game, if there is a sub it will just be to rotate him back into midfield.

Dempsey and Donovan will play the full 90, barring injury in any match they appear...


June 1st, 2010 at 2:26 PM ^

Does anyone know if collapsible stadium horns are allowed in the Big House?

I know they are a love em' or hate 'em kind of thing, but it could be great for making noise while we are on defense. I have no problem cheering until I'm hoarse each home game, but these could REALLY get under our opponents skin (I'm sure some of the "hand-sitters" would hate it as well, but hey I'm there to make noise and have fun.) I can see how it could get annoying but it's a thought.