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U.S make shift back line struggles against young Turks

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With a 2-1 victory over 39th FIFA ranked Turkey, the U.S.A moved to 2-0 in friendly games leading up to the World Cup. Fabian Johnson put the Americans on the scoreboard with a beautiful first touch strike that rocketed past Turkish keeper Onur Kivrak in the 26th minute. The score came off a great combination play from Johnson and midfielder Michael Bradley. Bradley’s chip to Johnson was perfectly executed and resulted in one of the few first half chances the Americans had. Thankfully for the home fans they were able to execute it well and take the 1-0 lead. Previous to Johnson’s shot the U.S. looked shaky at best on the defensive end, and not as enterprising as you would want on the offensive end.

It’s no secret that during Klinsmann’s tenure as coach for the US side there hasn’t been much consistency when it comes to the defensive back line. This has lead to a continually changing group of center backs and full backs being mixed together in an attempt to see what combination may work the best. While there have been some strong groupings in the past, today’s mix would likely be better some where on the back shelf of options. Maybe a back shelf in a cabinet with a lock on it, and the key thrown away…. At least until the World Cup is over.

The fact that the Turks didn’t score until the 90th minute on a penalty kick is a testament to both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, who had to face way more shots from the visitors (23) than their friends up the pitch could muster (8). The Turks also dominated the ball possession with a final tally of 57% versus 43% for the US. The back line, which consisted of Timmy Chandler, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson really showed some weakness early, as Turkey continually found room to get in to the middle of the box and got quality chances. Nuri Sahin nearly put the visitors on top in the 12th minute, but instead was denied by the post. When asked at the end of the first half why the US back line struggled so much, Klinsmann offered up that the Turks were putting two guys in the middle of the field where Jermaine Jones was as the holding midfielder and they needed to adjust to offset that advantage. However, it looked as though the Turks were having their way with both the middle and left side of the American defense. The pairing of Chandler and Besler on the left really seemed to struggle and Turkey continually was able penetrate down their attacking right side. Chandler also struggled late in the game and was the primary reason that Turkey scored, though the penalty was given to Geoff Cameron for a hand ball. Chandler carelessly gave the ball away and left his keeper in a one on one situation, which eventually lead to a hand ball on the line by Cameron and a converted PK by Turkey’s Selcuk Inan. Had it not been for a botched clearance by Hakan Balta, and gift goal for Clint Dempsey in the 52nd minute this game would have ended as 1-1 draw leaving more American fans in the state they should be in; concerned.

With the last of three friendlies next Saturday against Nigeria, Klinsmann should put out a more experienced back line than what we saw today. One that most likely will have DeMarcus Beasley in it rather than Tim Chandler. Chandler, who also struggled against Ukraine in an earlier friendly, still needs more time to develop before getting starting minutes. The Nigeria match should afford fans a glimpse at what lineup they can expect come June 16th versus Ghana. Hopefully whatever mix Klinsmann has decided on for that game comes to play better than the group he chose today… or else the month of June may be a lot shorter than wanted.


Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Berk Gencer

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