Tuesday, June 1, 2010

U.S. - Turkey

A little late on this, but just wanted to get my thoughts out on the U.S. team's latest 2-1 friendly victory over Turkey. I'm starting to think more and more that friendly results heading into the World Cup aren't that reliable, as a lot of teams have had mixed results (A part of this thinking might be a way to protect some of my sleeper teams like South Korea and Mexico, who have had their fair share of losses recently), but there is no doubt that the U.S. had a solid win against a team that is probably stronger than both Slovenia and Algeria.

The thing that impressed me about the U.S.'s win was that they really didn't look good during the first 20 minutes of the game. They were getting outplayed by a more aggressive, confident, and quicker Turkish team that has its fair share of players at strong European teams, but managed to bounce back for a great result.

It's been a few days so not everything is fresh in my memory, but I remember the game as being more about key moments than about spurts of dominant play by either side. Turkey capitalized on a gap in the U.S. defense, showing just how quickly good teams can capitalize on a mistake.

The U.S. defense held up despite looking shaky, and allowed a resurgent U.S. squad to dominate in the second half. New additions to U.S. soccer Edson Buddle and Jose Torres were very impressive, and provided a spark for the team throughout. Landon Donovan was involved in both goals, reaffirming that he'll need to repeat his strong showing in 2002 if the U.S. is going to succeed. Dempsey showed what a solid goalscorer he has been all season, and U.S.A. showed just how much potential offensive power it has by capitalizing on two key moments. It's great to have a come-from-behind win and show a lot of fight in them. They showed that they don't even need to necessarily dominate an entire game to get the result - they just need a few key moments to key in on.

I think one of the the important things to take out of this match is that although the U.S. roster is certainly replete with guys who play for pretty legit teams in Europe (I'll include MLS loan to Everton Donovan on that list), guys like Buddle show that MLS players (at least some of them) are not pushovers in international competition. It no longer seems to be the case the only Americans playing abroad can compete highly at the international level. This is good news for the MLS, although I still don't think the MLS quality of play is high enough to warrant serious interest.

I still like the U.S. to advance, and see Denmark, South Korea, and Mexico as bubble teams that will make it pretty far. I also, against my better judgment, like Ivory Coast maybe beating out portugal. We'll see about that, more serious predictions later...

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