USA Stock Watch: Altidore rising, Chandler struggling
When the whistle blew on full time in the USMNT's 2-1 win over Turkey at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon, the countdown to the start of the American World Cup campaign read 15 days.
Left between now and the U.S. opener against Ghana on June 16 is one more friendly, against Nigeria in Jacksonville, which Jurgen Klinsmann will use to solidify his lineup and iron out significant wrinkles still evident in his team's preparations for Brazil. Those significant wrinkles dominated discussion in the aftermath of Sunday's match, despite the win.
A host of players got their chance to impress ahead of the final tuneup match. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann once again used all six substitutions available to maximize his opportunity for evaluation. Even if doing so created some of the issues apparent in the performance, the exercise gives Klinsmann something to think about with Brazil looming.
Few scenarios exist that have Altidore out of the starting lineup if healthy, but the struggling striker spent 90 minutes working as hard as possible to remind us why that's true, regardless of his painful scoring drought.
Altidore was a handful for Turkey's defenders from the opening whistle, using every bit of his significant frame to bully them into submission while holding up the ball and connecting with his teammates. Though his flagging confidence in front of net likely robbed him of one or two extra shots, Altidore did not appear to be a forward letting his scoring woes impact his commitment to his duties in the USMNT system.
If the Sunderland striker plays like that in Brazil, the U.S. will be dangerous.
Yedlin entered for the best U.S. player on the field, Fabian Johnson, after 64 minutes. Despite the high bar Johnson set at right back, Yedlin looked composed and mature in his stead.
The knock on Yedlin has long been his deficient defending, but the Seattle Sounders full-back was most notable doing exactly that in 26 minutes. Aside from a few forays upfield that put him out of position and required Mix Diskerud to track back in coverage (not the midfielder's forte), Yedlin generally stayed at home and helped the Americans cut down on Turkey's dangerous opportunities.
It wasn't a performance that will make Yedlin a candidate to start, but it will give Klinsmann the confidence to turn to the 20-year-old if needed.
Despite some chatter among USMNT fans that Beckerman should start in the lone holding midfielder role so crucial to the success of the diamond formation, Klinsmann seems settled on Jermaine Jones starting in that position.
Nevertheless, Beckerman played well in the second half after replacing Jones, contributing to a better defensive performance and competently distributing from his deep-lying position. Some of that was down to a formation shift made by Klinsmann in the second half -- trading the diamond for a flat line of four when Turkey was on the attack -- but Beckerman's 45 minutes won't do anything to quell the growing belief that he's capable of making larger contributions in Brazil. His consistent ability to play simple and protect possession should not be taken for granted.
Brooks was the lone U.S. defender not to see the field against Azerbaijan on Wednesday, but the Hertha Berlin center-back made the most of his opportunity against Turkey.
Replacing Matt Besler after the first half, Brooks looked much more the cerebral defender he was promised to be when he declared for the United States officially in 2013. Brooks' afternoon was made potentially more important in light of a second consecutive underwhelming performance by the presumed starter, Belser.
What Brooks lacks in experience, he made up for Sunday with smart positioning and an eye for timing on tackles and blocks. Questions remain about his ability to play with the physical presence necessary at the international level.
To be fair, Green's stock probably didn't fall thanks to his 26 minutes on the field against Turkey. More aptly, it didn't move at all.
Green's inexperience shined through during his stint in relief of Brad Davis, most obviously in his clear discomfort with physical play. Turkey's defenders made it hard for the slight Green to use his skill in anything resembling space, and the Bayern Munich reservist failed to adjust.
Criticism of Green's play might seem harsh -- what 18-year-old with so little senior level time is ready for such a drastic step up -- but Klinsmann's decision to bring him to Brazil means he can only be judged on the same scale as his teammates. One positive: Though he failed to get a shot off from Graham Zusi's excellent early cross just after his introduction, it's unlikely that any other American midfielder is speedy enough to be in position to create that chance.
Once again, Klinsmann chose to play the predominantly right-footed Chandler on at left-back, this time starting over DaMarcus Beasley.
Flipped to the left and asked to push up as part of the Americans' 4-4-2 diamond system, Chandler's defensive struggles were obvious and at times, painful. Though he did play the cross that resulted in the second U.S. goal (more a function of poor Turkish defending than the quality of the service), the full-back canceled out his offensive contribution with a mental lapse that led directly to Geoff Cameron's handball and Turkey's only goal.
If Klinsmann is going to insist on using Chandler on the left, he will face a difficult decision over whether the Bundesliga player's imbalance between attacking and defending makes him worth the risk.
Neither Besler nor center-back mate Cameron played all that well in the 45 minutes they shared on the field, but it's the Sporting Kansas City player who gets downgraded for hectic play.
Besler entered the run of send-off games thought to be the more disciplined, positionally sound American in the middle of the back line, but through two matches he often seems confused and unsure. Besler did manage to make several timely plays in scramble situations, a small positive that highlighted the overall issues in the U.S. defense during the opening half.