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Johnson, Dempsey goals give U.S. 2-1 win over Turkey

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If Tuesday’s performance was the warm up, Sunday’s at Red Bull Arena saw the U.S. ease its 2014 World Cup preparation out of neutral. Overcoming a slow start with Fabian Johnson’s first half opener, a U.S. team that waited until late to defeat Azerbaijan earlier this week avoided similar problems against Turkey. Adding a second half goal from Clint Dempsey, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side produced a 2-1 win over the world’s 39th-ranked team, taking another step in its buildup for Brazil.

Turkey produced the match’s first good chance in the 13th minute when Nuri Sahin went off Tim Howard’s left post. Twelve minutes later, however, a ranging give-and-go between Johnson and Michael Bradley saw the U.S. defender burst past the Turkey back line for the game’s first goal. Just after halftime, a failed Turkey clearance on a ball from Timothy Chandler allowed captain Clint Dempsey to double the lead from two yards out.

A giveaway from 90th minute by Chandler led to a Geoff Cameron hand ball after Mustafa Pektemek was allowed to go in alone on goal. Selcuk Inan’s conversion into the left side netting heightened the stoppage time tension, but the Turks only goal proved consolation for their 2-1 loss.

(MORE: Three things that could matter for the U.S., come Brazil)

The United States concludes its send-off series Saturday, June 7, against World Cup-qualified Nigeria in Jacksonville. Nine days later, the team begins the 2014 World Cup in Natal against Ghana.

Twelve minutes of relatively even play at the beginning of the match gave way to a Turkey chance after Geoff Cameron conceded a foul deep on the U.S.’s right. After the restart was cleared, play moving from Turkey’s left to the middle of the box found Nuri Sahin near the penalty spot. With the U.S. defense slow to respond, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder put his shot off the outside of the right post, giving the hosts an early reprieve.

In the 21st minute, after a spell of play left the U.S. on the verge of conceding, a turnover created by Michael Bradley nearly produced the opener. Winning a ball just inside Turkey’s half, Bradley created a 3-on-2 in transition against the visitors’ defense. A pass played wide to Altidore and back to Bradley saw the U.S. barely miss goal when a defender’s lunge caught a ball headed toward Kivrak’s far post.

Four minutes later, after gaining their first hold on the match, the U.S. was in front. Starting his team’s movement from 40 yards out, right back Fabian Johnson found Bradley just above the arc and continued his run into the penalty area. A lob over the defense allowed the new Borussia Moechengladbach player to one-time his shot into the left side of goal, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

With its play higher up the field proving more effective, the U.S. played out the rest of the half with few of the defensive worries that speckled the match’s first 20 minutes. Even after the goal, the half’s best chance fell to the U.S., with Clint Dempsey sent on a breakaway toward Kivrak’s goal. Tackled at the edge of the penalty area by Ozan Tufan, the U.S. captain was left appealing for a penalty as play went back the other way.

In the 52nd minute, however, Turkey gave Dempsey his goal. On a ball sent in from the left from Timothy Chandler, a failed clearance from Hakan Balta left the ball just outside goal for the U.S. captain. Getting his right foot to it before Kivrak could get down for the ball, Dempsey unwrapped his gift to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

After securing its lead, the U.S. settled into a substitute routine that started at halftime, with Brad Guzan, John Brooks, and Kyle Beckerman brought on for the game’s final 45 minutes. Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin would come on just after the hour-mark, with Jurgen Klinsmann selecting Mix Diskerud for this final sb in the 69th minute.

Along the way, Turkey nearly pulled a goal back in the 61st minute only to see Brad Guzan shut down a 1-on-1. Other half chances through the problematic left side of the U.S.’s defense were thwarted, with the visitors never adopting the intensity of a team pursuing a meaningful result. Even after a Chandler was caught on the ball 30 yards out, a giveaway that produced the game’s final goal, Turkey fail to summon the desperation needed to find its equalizing goal

The reason for that is obvious enough. For Turkey, the game didn’t mean much. For the U.S., however the performance was all about progress, and while the team may not be ready for June 16 right now, it still showed improvement from Tuesday night. Against a much more talented team, the U.S. produced a slightly more convincing result.

The attack did little after being handed a second goal, but in terms to the U.S. trajectory toward Brazil, Sunday represented a move in the right direction. Particularly at the back, a number of questions went unanswered, but seven days from now against Nigeria, the team gets its next chance to offer a response.

Lineups

United States: Howard (Guzan 46′); Johnson (Yedlin 64′), Cameron, Besler (Brooks 46′), Chandler; Zusi (Diskerud 69′), Jones (Beckerman 46′), Bradley, Davis (Green 64′); Altidore, Dempsey

Goals: Johnson 26′, Dempsey 52′

Turkey: Kivrak, Balta (Demirok 83′), Dogan (Ozek 46′), Gonul, Inan, Erdinç (Kisa 80′), Sahin (Çalhanoğlu 70′), Ozyakup (Adin 66′), Tufan, Erkin, Camdal (Pektemek 64′)

Goal: Inan 90′

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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