Fresh from a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan, the USMNT heads across the country to Red Bull Arena. In New Jersey they’ll face Turkey, who are 38th in FIFA’s latest rankings.
The Crescent Stars finished fourth in their group in UEFA World Cup qualifying, but don’t let that fool you. The group was dominated by the Netherlands, but Romania, Hungary and Turkey faced a tough battle to finish second. Now, after five straight victories, including Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Brazil-bound Honduras, Turkey are moving up in the standings.
They’ll certainly make stiffer competition than Azerbaijan. Which means that the USMNT will, in turn, need to up their game. In Tuesday’s match, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann selected a starting XI composed of players that could very well feature in the first group match against Ghana. Various changes were made, at the halftime interval and beyond, but Azerbaijan held on until the 75th minute, when Mix Diskerud finally scored for the U.S.
Since the win over Azerbaijan, much of the focus has been on Klinsmann’s use of the midfield diamond. It’s likely the coach will continue to use the formation, which, thanks to the narrow way in which the midfielders set up, relies on the fullbacks for width and provides extra players in the center of the field.
However, that’s not going to be much help if no one’s able to score for the U.S. There’s still concerns over the form of Jozy Altidore, while Chris Wondolowski couldn’t get his shots around the Azerbaijan goalkeeper. Fortunately, it sounds like Clint Dempsey will be fit for the match against Turkey, which may give a better idea just how the formation will function.
All in all, having a tougher opponent on Sunday should help in evaluating the true strengths and weaknesses of the USMNT squad. Unless you follow the Turkish Super Lig, you’re probably not going to recognize many of the visitors’ players, but they’re solid defensively and should challenge the U.S. more with their attack. Turkey’s scored twelve goals in four matches (although perhaps counting the six against Kosovo isn’t exactly fair), so it’s likely that the U.S. defense will have more to do than they did against Azerbaijan, at least.
Kickoff is Sunday, June 1 at 2 p.m. ET.