U.S. rallies past Turkey in tune-up

A comeback in the send-off: The U.S. soccer team rallied past Turkey in its last tune-up before the World Cup. Above, Clarence Goodson (right) and Colin Kazim-Richards of Turkey collide.
A comeback in the send-off: The U.S. soccer team rallied past Turkey in its last tune-up before the World Cup. Above, Clarence Goodson (right) and Colin Kazim-Richards of Turkey collide.
Posted: May 30, 2010

Saturday's send-off match, the final tune-up on home soil before next month's World Cup, included everything the U.S. team needed - a stadium overflowing with soccer fans, an opponent boasting a raucous fan base, a few necessary halftime adjustments, and a couple of pretty goals.

On Saturday, the U.S. came from behind to defeat Turkey, 2-1, at Lincoln Financial Field. On Sunday, the team will fly to Johannesburg, South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which runs June 11 to July 11.

The U.S. will open the World Cup against England on June 12.

More than 55,000 fans filled the Linc, some sporting the red-and-white of Turkey, but most to watch U.S. coach Bob Bradley's team play its final minutes of soccer before leaving for the sport's showcase event.

It didn't start well.

After Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, a game in which the U.S. used mainly its second string, Bradley's starting group on Saturday was top shelf.

But the group's initial performance was not.

Turkey managed all the early chances, finally converting in the 27th minute on an over-the-top pass that was taken down by Turkish midfielder Arda Turan, who then pushed the game's first goal past advancing goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Howard spent a few first-half moments barking at his back line of defenders.

"That's just the way Tim is," explained U.S. defender Jay DeMerit. "Timmy just likes to yell and get the guys going. And to be honest, there was a couple of times there when we needed it."

At the break, the U.S. team trailed, 1-0.

Bradley made a quartet of changes at the start of the second half, removing defenders Jonathan Spector and Clarence Goodson and midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark, inserting defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Steve Cherundolo and midfielders Robbie Findley and Jose Torres.

"Whenever you start a game, things need to be sorted out on the field," Bradley explained afterward. "Oftentimes, there's a period of time where you just need to play through things, and then the game starts to open up and you can take advantage."

In the 58th minute, the U.S. team's tying goal went, quite succinctly, from DeMerit to Findley to Landon Donovan to, finally, striker Jozy Altidore. Donovan gathered Findley's perfectly timed chip pass in front of the right side of the goal - touched it once, drawing Turkey's keeper - and then crossed it to Altidore, who stood so open the net must have appeared to span the entire end zone.

In the 75th minute, the U.S. team's winning goal went from Cherundolo to Donovan to striker Clint Dempsey. Deep in Turkish territory, Cherundolo's inbounds pass went to Donovan, who turned toward the middle of the field and passed it ahead to Dempsey. With a defender at his side, Dempsey took the ball off his hip, touched it once, then muscled the ball off the right side of his foot and past Turkey's oncoming keeper.

"I didn't want to go in too hard because I didn't want to kick the ball away from me or have the goalie pick it up, so I tried to absorb the hit and get a good bounce," Dempsey said of the moment.

Afterward, Bradley admitted his team wasn't "sharp enough" in the game's first 45 minutes, but then understood how to push the tempo "in an intelligent way."

"Our organization was a lot better in the second half, and from there we had a lot more opportunities," Donovan said.

There were mistakes. And there were elements - such as finishing opportunities and closing defensive ranks - that need sharpening. But the Americans left Philadelphia, and the U.S., feeling as if its send-off match was exactly what it needed.

"The type of game we were in today pushed us very hard, and that's what you want from a game like that," Bradley said. "The response, especially in the second half, was a strong one. We did a good job pushing through the second goal, we had a couple of chances to get the third goal, but when you consider everything that's gone on the last few weeks, it puts us in a good position, and I think now we're ready to move on to South Africa."

That's exactly where they're heading.


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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