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Jun 1, 2014

Chances abound in U.S. win vs. Turkey

The United States continued their World Cup preparations by beating Turkey, 15 days ahead of the opener against Ghana.

For the U.S. national team, there were plenty of peaks and valleys to be seen against Turkey. The offense looked more cohesive, the back line shaky, but it was still enough to come away with a 2-1 victory.

Fabian Johnson scored his first international goal, and Clint Dempsey added a second to give the U.S. the win. Selcuk Inan pulled a goal back for Turkey with a late penalty after Geoff Cameron was judged to have handled Mustafa Pektemek's shot on the goal line.

The goals were just reward for a U.S. team that looked bright and incisive in attack, with Michael Bradley looking impressive throughout. Jozy Altidore also impressed with his holdup play and passing, although goals remained elusive.

The defense, on the other hand, looked vulnerable throughout, and this went beyond just the play of the back line. The communication within the U.S. midfield and between the midfield and defensive lines wasn't as good as it needed to be.

- USA vs. Turkey: Boot Room recap
- Video: Bradley says U.S. need to control game
- Video: U.S. diamond in the rough?
- Video: Johnson on his one-touch goal
- Lalas: Bradley in wrong position

Credit must be given to Turkey, however, which threatened from the outset. Not only did the U.S. struggle to follow the late runs from Turkey's midfield, but crosses proved troublesome as well. Nuri Sahin skimmed the outside of the post in the 12th minute following good work from Caner Erkin and Ishak Dogan. Inan fired over from close range eight minutes later as he evaded the attentions of Johnson and Cameron.

The U.S. threatened in the 21st minute when a Michael Bradley steal created a three-on-two opportunity, but his shot from Altidore's return feed was blocked.

The chance seemed to give the U.S. a jolt of confidence, and the home side broke on top five minutes later with a sublime goal. After collecting a pass from Johnson, Bradley's chip over the top of the Turkish defense found Johnson in the clear, and the defender scored with a sumptuous first-time finish.

Turkey continued to threaten, but the bending U.S. defense didn't break, with Jermaine Jones blocking a pair of shots.

The U.S. nearly added a second in the 37th minute. Altidore was fouled after his touch appeared to put him in the clear, but the referee played the advantage as Dempsey ran onto the ball. He then appeared to be fouled in the box but kept going only to eventually see his shot stuffed by Onur Kivrak from point-blank range.

Turkey had a good chance to start the second half through Ahmet Ilhan Ozek, but halftime substitute Brad Guzan was on hand to make the save.

The second goal for the U.S. eventually arrived six minutes after the interval. Davis played Chandler into space, and his subsequent cross looked set to be dealt with by the Turkish defense. But Hakan Balta's misplayed clearance fell perfectly for Dempsey, who was left with the easiest of tap-ins.

The U.S. nearly scored again when Davis embarked on a long run -- aided by a handball, it should be noted -- but Graham Zusi couldn't put Davis' cross on target.

Turkey threatened a few minutes later when Gokhan Gonul was wide open on the right wing, but Guzan delivered a sharp save.

Altidore had several chances to put the game out of reach. The biggest of these was in the 80th minute when he was put through by Mix Diskerud, but his shot was saved by Kivrak.

Turkey pulled a goal back in the 90th minute when Pektemek stripped Chandler of the ball, and his subsequent shot was handled on the line by Cameron. Inan sent the ensuing penalty past Guzan.

All told, the match proved to be a much sterner test than the glorified scrimmage that was the Azerbaijan match, and the display should give U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to think about, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Player ratings (0-10)

G Tim Howard, 6.5: Impeccable positioning and commanded his box well in 45 minutes of work.

D Timothy Chandler, 3.5: Looked dialed in on offense but was caught reacting instead of anticipating on defense, especially on balls over the top. Used his recovery speed to good effect but faded badly and was responsible for Turkey's penalty.

D Matt Besler, 5: Was troubled by Mevlut Erdinc's movement and was drawn out of the middle often but performed well in scramble mode.

D Geoff Cameron, 5: Committed a senseless foul early and looked vulnerable on crosses. Eventually settled down to play more consistently after halftime. He was guilty of the penalty, although the fault lies mostly with others.

D Fabian Johnson, 6.5: Struggled defensively in the opening 20 minutes but recovered on both sides of the ball and scored a spectacular goal.

M Brad Davis, 6: Looked sharp and active from the beginning and was his usual threat on set pieces. Defensively he needed to do more to help Chandler.

M Jermaine Jones, 5.5: Provided plenty of cover and blocked some dangerous shots, although he needed more help from the outside mids. His distribution was shaky at times, and he had one bad giveaway at the top of the box. More good than bad, however.

M Michael Bradley, 7: Took advantage of the spaces available, and his pass on Johnson's goal was sublime.

M Graham Zusi, 6: His long-range passing was impressive, as he picked out teammates in dangerous positions on more than one occasion. His work rate remains otherworldly, but he needed to do better with his second-half chance.

F Clint Dempsey, 6: His goal was a gift, but credit him for being in the right place at the right time. He faded in and out of the match but still proved a significant threat. Showed no ill effects from the groin injury and might have had a penalty on another day.

F Jozy Altidore, 6.5: Did all the little things well. He was a constant nuisance to Turkish defenders, held the ball up and combined well with his teammates. Still needs to be more aggressive when close to goal.

Subs

G Brad Guzan, 7: Made two sharp saves to keep the result intact.

M Kyle Beckerman, 6: Did what was asked, as he was sharp in his passing and positioning.

D John Brooks, 5.5: Didn't look physical or decisive early on but recovered to cut out some dangerous passes.

M Julian Green, 4: His first touch let him down on one chance, and he didn't link as well with his teammates as he needed. Provided some decent defensive cover, but he'll need to improve significantly to see the field at the World Cup.

D DeAndre Yedlin, 5.5: Looked more settled and got into the game quickly with a solid tackle. Got caught venturing too far forward at times, however.

M Mix Diskerud, 6.5: Played a great through ball to spring Altidore and provided some badly needed defensive cover at times. Needed to take one chance first-time, but his passing was excellent.