Saturday’s friendly match against Turkey will look different from the Yanks’ midweek outing/beating against the Petr Czech Republic in many ways, but the most apparent deviation will be that most the actual starters for both nations will be on the field. Tuesday’s debacle was correctly characterized as an experimental Czech side putting four goals past a Bob Bradley lineup crafted expressly for the purpose of assessing players before the final cut down. The USMNT won’t have the luxury of such a good excuse coming out of this go-round, get ready for A-Team versus A-Team.
And isn’t the timing just impeccable given the TV-to-movie reimagining that’s about to hit theaters?! If the world of U.S. Soccer was run with half the marketing savvy of the NFL or Major League Baseball, the cast of the summer blockbuster wannabe would be singing the national anthem or presenting the colors or maybe even something more idiotic that I haven’t thought of! Hell, if this was David Stern’s NBA Quinton “Rampage”/“B.A. Baracus” Jackson would be challenging Arda Turan to brawl in the center circle while “Hannibal” and “Face” laid plastic explosives at the feet of an unsuspecting Volkan at the Turkish goalmouth! Alas, the only semblance of an American A-Team on the field Saturday will not be composed of ex-military escaped cons, but of names and faces we’ll soon see donning the white sash in South Africa.
First off, don’t be surprised to see Robbie Findley start in this game. After Wednesday’s shocking announcement which served as a sucker punch to unselfish all-heart players everywhere, I’m not putting anything past Bobbo. I think he starts Findley alongside Altidore in this match, but not to show in the media or the fan base he was right. My suspicion is that Bob feels good about the guys who made the roster and rested on Tuesday night; both the in-uniform group and the guys who were eating chicken wings and picking their teeth for the camera.
Operating under this premise, we’ll probably see Spector start at right back in the latest chapter of an under-covered position battle with Stevie C for the starting berth in the World Cup. Ricardo Clark will most likely get a chance alongside MB90 to rebut Mo Edu’s solid performance in the Czech match, and Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard will most likely all be in their customary roles (with a good possibility of Clint moving to forward in the second half).
Another storyline to follow in this friendly and beyond is Bob Bradley’s dilemma, and it should be interesting to see how he plays it. Jozy is the only thing close to a target-man striker on this roster, and even if he’s healthy, Altidore’s not exactly an iron man when it comes to fitness. We call Michael Bradley MB90 because of the number of minutes he logs each match; we toyed with dubbing Jozy Altidore “JA60,” but it doesn’t quite have the same ring, and it reminded everyone at the TYAC home office of Kobe Bryant’s personal banner-waving journalist J.A. Adande. Josmer’s been getting better with this particular weakness, but I can still count on one hand the number of time I’ve seen him play 90 plus in the past couple years. Does Bobbo leave Altidore in this game with an aim at conditioning him and insuring he can still strike in late-game pressure situations, or does he give this prized player a rest so he’s as fresh as can be in Rustenburg? If and when the ever important forward does come off, who’s his replacement? Is Bob relying on the Herculez Gomez super-sub trend to continue? I’d guess that he is.
The biggest question marks for me are the injured defenders, but I don’t think we’d really call them that. Maybe the hurt defenders? The not-one-hundred-percent defenders? The guys who are still recovering from surgeries or have “picked up a knock” as they love to say in the English press. I am of course referencing Bocanegra, Onyewu, and DeMerit. I think we’ll see at least two of them play, and while everyone will be focused on trying to assess whether Gooch was weakened or just rusty on Tuesday, the well-informed Yanks fan will also be eyeing Jay DeMerit whose depth perception issues in the wake of his optic surgery may pose a problem for the hard-nosed center back.
If we don’t play most of our best defenders or if more than one of them looks hampered in this match, Turkey will make the Americans pay. This team is still made up of primarily the same guys who shocked the world at Euro 08. You remember that feeling that hit you when you were watching your Yanks flip the script on the footballing world against Spain last summer? Well that’s just what watching Turkey was like two summers ago. This U.S. team gets stuck in. They never give up. But they will not out-heart Turkey… especially without Chinger, but I guess we’ll have the let that go at some point. My point is that the USMNT will have to earn it against the Turks. Nihat, Turan, Sanli, and the Altintop’s are no joke. It should be a great measuring stick and it will be a great match to watch.
And now for a new feature! Everyone knows about all the “oh so predictable” training regiments the South Africa-bound World Cup squads are going through, and their play in the tournament will be on display for all to see, but what of those men not selected to represent their counties this summer? I now proudly present the first installment of…
Tales of the Uninvited
Unable to bear another summer like his last, the first in his memory in which he wasn’t scoring goals, Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooy is taking a page out of former Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly’s book. Donnie Baseball tried to organize pickup baseball games with striking Major Leaguers during the 1994 labor dispute, and Ruud is putting something similar together in his backyard (literally, he’s got a soccer field back there). We have it on good authority that after Petr Cech committed to being involved, van Nistelrooy started bragging to his family and friends about how he was going to put three past the unfortunate keeper to score the world’s first “helmet trick.”
On a side note, Dan and Neil will be in town for the match. Be sure to buy them a beer.
Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com or @TYAC_Jon.