Those two halves could have hardly been more different. We were like Jekyl and Hyde out there.
The First Half
Aside from the first five minutes of the game, we had a pretty crappy first half. If Turkey had been able to finish their chances, it could have easily been 3-0 instead of 1-0 at the end of the half.
Benny Feilhaber didn’t give me any confidence that he can be trusted to contribute defensively as a winger. He looks a lot better when he’s deployed centrally. He was initially deployed on the left against Turkey, but switched sides with Donovan after about thirty minutes. Feilhaber didn’t look very comfortable playing on the wing. There were times when it seemed like he was drifting in to the center a bit too much. He had a handful of decent runs with the ball, but he was definitely not the creative spark that we needed. With Edu, Clark, and now Torres all ahead of him for a starting central midfield role, it looks like he’ll likely be a contributor off the bench.
Clint Dempsey had a pretty lackluster first half. He was deployed up top and a withdrawn striker behind Jozy Altidore and looked, well, he looked pretty withdrawn. For the first forty-five minutes his touch looked off, with several turnovers off of bad traps and miscontrolled balls. Dempsey is better when he can receive the ball at a half-turn and then run at defenders. His role in the first half looked more like he was playing the target man, receiving the ball with his back to the goal and trying to hold up the play. I have heard a lot of call for Dempsey to start up top, but after seeing him start there against Turkey I have to disagree. Keep him out on the wing.
The goal that Turkey scored should not have been. The blame doesn’t all lay at the feet of Jonathan Spector, though. Someone should have been covering for him in the midfield. I’m not sure if it should have been Ricardo Clark or Michael Bradley, but there was definitely a breakdown in our defensive coverage. Spector made a fairly indecisive run at two defenders, got disposed, but then got caught ball watching and didn’t recover as Turkey regained possession. A pass was quickly played to a rushing Arda Turan who beat both a racing Spector and Jay DeMerit and put the ball past Tim Howard. Add that lapse to the pretty lackluster night that Spector spent getting beat several times on the right side and one would have to think that he more than significantly hurt his chances to start against England.
The other disappointment was Ricardo Clark. While he didn’t look inept, he certainly looked over matched in the midfield. I can’t say that I wasn’t that surprised. Turkey was playing with a five man midfield, meaning that Clark and Bradley were playing counter to three Turkish midfielders. Bradley held his own and was legitimately our best player of the half, but I don’t think that Clark was ever going to shine against that formation.
Aside from Bradley looking solid, the other positive to take from the first half was DeMerit and Goodson playing well together. They weren’t the greatest centerback pairing that you could hope for, but they seemed to be in pretty good sync with one another and looked serviceable together. I would rather that Onyewu be on the field instead of Goodson, but this gave me a more confidence in our alternative.
The Second Half
To start our the second half, Bob Bradley replaced Goodson with Onyewu, Clark with Torres, Spector with Cherundolo, and Feilhaber with Finldey. Findley slid in up top next to Altidore and Dempsey dropped back into an attacking role on the left wing.
The changes to the line up made an immediate impact, with the primary driver of change being Jose Torres in the midfield. Much has been said about Torres having tons of potential, but not really fitting well into Bob Bradley’s system. What ever wasn’t fitting before fell into place against Turkey.. He was poised on the ball and didn’t look phased by the active Turkish midfield that shutdown Clark in the first half. Torres distribution to the offense was also top notch. If Dempsey had gotten that kind of service in the first half, he may have been more affective up top. I don’t think that he’ll get the start against England, Bradley will probably go with Edu for his athleticism, but Torres could easily start against Slovenia or Algeria after his great performance against Turkey.
Dempsey did look much better in the second half. His goal was pretty classic, the same combination of grit and technique that we saw in his goal against Spain last year. In general, he was more involved than he was in the first half, which I think was because of the change in position.
The biggest surprise of the second half was how well Robbie Findley played. Maybe he felt like he had something to prove after being picked to get cut on just about every one’s roster predictions. His speed was apparent, but I was also impressed by both his work ethic and his ball control. At one point, around the 51st minute, he tracked way back and brought down a Turkish player that was on a break away with a beautiful tackle. The camera had a great shot of his face as he came in behind the guy; he was determined, not panicked in the least. His sweet chip that sprung Donovan on our first goal was equally impressive. I don’t know if it was an impressive enough performance for him to get the nod to start against England, but if he’s could guarantee a repeat then Bob Bradley would be crazy to turn him down.
Both of the halftime changes made to our back line were positive, although Onyewu wasn’t tested like he was against the Czechs. He looked typically solid and seemed to be playing with increased confidence. Cherudolo showed why he should be our starting right back on June 12th. He brought the pace and confidence that Spector was lacking in the first half. He doesn’t have the killer cross that Spector can deliver from the right side, but he linked up really well with Donovan and then Holden. The build up that led to Dempsey’s near-miss in the 87th minute was started by a great sequence between Cherundolo and Holden. The late substitution of Jonathan Bornstein was a step down from Bocanegra, but that’s not something that should surprise anyone.
All in all, the match proved valuable for seeing which players we should be starting on June 12th. Some positions could still be in flux, but I think that Bradley is getting the answers that he needs. Our final warm up game is in this Saturday against Australia.