In the end, the United States pulled out a victory over a rather good Turkish side.
In the end, manager Bob Bradley turned to his first XI to salvage a result.
In the end, we learned that, despite the positives of the last year or so, the US still has a ways to go.
The international friendly versus Turkey was, to a degree, an exercise in experimentation. The roster now set, the players should have been relaxed and ready to show what they could do. And, for good or ill, that happened. Old stalwarts like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore showed why they’re starters. They all played well during the match. Others, like Benny Feilhaber and Clarence Goodson, may prove to be hopeful picks by Bradley. That is, the manager is hoping that they show more good than bad in South Africa. I remain unconvinced that Feilhaber was a good choice, though I don’t think he’ll play very much. Goodson, though, has to be better. Without question, the biggest problem for the US going into South Africa is the back four.
In my view, there are two very good defenders on the US roster: Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra. Onyewu is bordering on world class but he’s coming off a severe knee injury. His mobility might be hampered. Bocanegra is useful because of his versatility and his intelligence. His speed may let him down against the fastest players but so long as he’s in proper position, Tim Howard (a legitimate world-class keeper) should be able to bail him out. That, boys and girls, leaves two more places and, sadly, Howard isn’t Doctor Octopus. To be fair, Steve Cherundolo looked far better than Jonathan Spector and I think Jay DeMerit is better than he showed. So defending for the US will be more about positioning and minimizing mistakes than anything else. There won’t be any Dani Alves-style attacking runs (unless Bradley loses his mind and plays Beasley at left back again).
But that’s okay. The US doesn’t play the Brazilian/ Barcelona style. The US plays a more Italian style, with a focus on possession and defense (granted, both Brazil and Barça prize possession; really, everyone should focus on possession since you need the ball to score. I suppose I’m just making little generalizations that may or may not be absurd. But I digress.). The US isn’t going to win 6-1 or 5-4; they want to win 2-1 and 1-0. Unfortunately, that puts a lot of pressure on the back four and Tim Howard. I know Howard is up to the task but I’m not sure the defenders can last for 3 opening round matches and (hopefully) part of the knock-out phase.
I want to be proved wrong.