By Ryan Fleming
After watching the United States Men’s National Team’s 2-1 win over Turkey yesterday I came away with three thoughts.
1. The U.S. has to worry about their defense. Sure, they won, and they made the game quite exciting in the second half, but, their defense caused excitement for all the wrong reasons. Turkish forwards were allowed too much space, allowing them to fly down either wing, eventually hold the ball, which gave time for reinforcements to develop in the box. Johnathon Spector was beaten too often and Clarence Goodson failed to cover when Spector tried to step up and chip in offensively.
The improved play of Oguchi Onyewu was a positive. In Tuesday’s 4-2 apathetic loss to the Czech Republic, Onyewu showed his rust. The defender was beaten to balls, out jumped and out muscled. The 45 minutes he played in yesterday’s contest was a complete turnaround. In the 62nd minute, the U.S. were being pressured and a Turkish forward had possession of the ball in the box. Onyewu, unable to block the shot with his leg, put his body in front of the shot and stood his ground after the shot ricocheted off of him.
That moment in the game was enough to convince me that Onyewu is on his way back to 100 percent. No, he is not there right now, but when a player puts his body on the line like Gooch did yesterday afternoon, it implants a beacon of hope in that player’s progress.
2. The U.S. needs Jozy Altidore to play well – If the Yanks have a chance at getting past the group stages and into the round of 16, they will need the young forward to step up. Altidore will have to have some hair-raising moments like he did in Saturday’s match.
Altidore side-stepped his way around two defenders, slid the ball by another, bursting by him and leaving himself alone with Turkey’s keeper, Volkan Demirel. Altidore then slid a pass through the middle of the box, just out of the reach of Clint Dempsey (who later scored).
No, Altidore didn’t score on the play, but he did show the ability to make a play even when outnumbered. The youngster, who had a mediocre year with Hull City in England’s Premier League, will have to take charge and earn show why his spot was never in question by Bob Bradley.
3. The U.S. bench could do some damage – Robbie Findley showed to more than 50,000 in attendance for yesterday’s match why he was included in the final 23-man roster. The forward, who plays for Real Salt Lake, made an instant impact in the game. He contributed to the Yanks first goal when he chipped a ball to Landon Donovan in the box, Donovan slid the ball to a streaking and wide-open Altidore, who put the ball into the open net. The score tied the game, but it infused those in attendance with a giant, simultaneous uproar, that would last the remainder of the match.
Not only did the goal give the crowd some life, after not having much to cheer for in the first half, it gave those watching a sense of hope. It proved that yes, the U.S. can come back from a deficit, that they have players that can come on in times of need and provide a spark, to make something out of nothing.
Ryan Fleming is an editor and writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.