The Ay Yildizilar will offer a much stiffer challenge than Azerbaijan did on Tuesday. That said, a confident Turkish side is fresh off a 2-1 defeat of Ireland and a 2-0 defeat of Honduras, and currently rank 38th in the world according to FIFA.
The Turks' roster is mainly domestic, boasting 4 Besiktas teammates of Jermaine Jones, with the remaining 5 in the current roster plying their craft in Germany, France, and Spain. Although they have not qualified for the World Cup since a surprising semifinal run in 2002, they have been a little unfortunate to advance out of some tough groups and did take 3rd at Euro '08. Although the level of competition will be ratcheted up a notch, we should look forward to an opponent not as determined to pack it in.
Here's what else I'm looking forward to seeing:
1. The Defensive alignment: Admittedly against underwhelming opposition and pressure, the defense still looked solid amongst the 6 who played on the back 4. As much as this may be the biggest concern going into the tournament, I am expecting a John Anthony Brooks sighting tonight for a half. Given his lackluster performance against the Ukraine, he needs some field time. With there being only 2 more friendlies before Ghana, he'll see the field. I also speculate that we'll see a Besler-less backline at some point tonight, if not from the start.
2. Clint Dempsey back in attack: Deuce's replacement against Azerbaijan, Chris Wondolowski, provided the danger early on Tuesday night, but will wish he did better with two excellent chances. Dempsey, who has been in insane early season form with 8 goals and 3 assists in 9 MLS matches, will provide a similar killer instinct as Wondo along with an upgrade in ideas for setting up his teammates. This will be an excellent test of how his domestic form translates to the international game.
3. The formation: For the bulk of qualification, the 4-2-3-1 was the flavor of choice for Jurgen Klinsmann. In the last 2 matches, the Yanks have rolled out in a 4-4-2 'diamond', and results have been mixed. Outside of one of the best 45 minutes I've seen a US team deliver, the product on the field has ranged from uninspiring to slightly poor. That said, I think it's hard to take too much from the Azerbaijan match. With the middle and attacking 3rds packed by a hyper defensive-minded foe, it was always going to be difficult to operate as intended with the middle crowded to the point it was difficult to bring the outside backs in play. The insertion of Brad Davis in the 2nd half solved this problem to a large extent with the US looking consistently dangerous in the 2nd 45.
In Turkey, we will see a more conventional 4-4-2, and thus more room to operate. If the diamond continues, this will be a better test of proficiency in this formation as well a test to see if Jermaine Jones, who consistently stayed home against Azerbaijan, can maintain positional discipline against a more wide open attack.
Projected Starting XI:
Brad Davis - Graham Zusi
Final Score: United States 2, Turkey 1