Two weeks before they open their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ against England, United States players rallied from a woeful first half for a confidence-boosting 2-1 victory over Turkey on Saturday.
Clint Dempsey took a spot-on pass from Landon Donovan and scored the winning goal in the 75th minute to give the Americans a triumphant sendoff to South Africa after a first half of defensive lapses and spotty communication. Arda Turan's breakaway in the 27th minute put Turkey ahead 1-0 at half-time but Jozy Altidore finished a chip-and-charge play by reserve Robbie Findley to equalize in the 58th minute, setting up Dempsey's decider.
The first half we were all nervous. We showed our character in the way we were able to turn things around. That says a lot about us.
"The end-all is that we know we can be behind against a good team and have the intelligence to come back and the ability to play better," Donovan said.
"You could see everyone had more confidence in the second half," Dempsey said. "The first half we were all nervous. We showed our character in the way we were able to turn things around. That says a lot about us."
Dempsey fought off a defender as he ran to the five-meter line, then flicked the finish past Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Demirel and inspire cheers of "We Want England" from US supporters as the final seconds ticked away.
"In terms of what you want out of a send-off game it was great," US coach Bob Bradley said. "Everything that has gone on has put us in good position heading to South Africa."
Picked apart in the first half
US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who made the match's only three saves, hopes he sees nothing like the US defensive woes of the first half against Turkey, whose missed opportunities are unlikely to be duplicated by Fabio Capello's English side on 12 June in Rustenberg.
"It was a a slap in the face what happened. They had too many good chances," said Howard, who plays in England for Everton. "The second half we did a really good job taking charge. We're going to have to play like that in South Africa."
Turkey's Tuncay Sanli, a forward at England's Stoke City, went wide with a five-meter shot in the sixth minute. Turan fired over the crossbar in another point-blank miss and after another Yurkish miss 10 minutes in, Howard ran up to his defenders and screamed his coordination orders. An unguarded Turan finally made the hosts pay but the damage could have been far worse.
It took us too long to figure out. Sometimes you have to get in the right positions. The organisation was not there.
"It had to be more cohesive. That's something we still have to get better at and we don't have a lot of time to do it," Howard said. "We didn't do a good job of staying tight and bottling it up. We had a not-too-good job of one-on-one defending going on. We needed to work together better."
Donovan was also critical, saying: "It took us too long to figure out. Sometimes you have to get in the right positions. The organisation was not there. In the second half we had a better tempo game and we were able to take advantage of it."
Oguchi Onyewu, in only his second game after a seven-month layoff for a ruptured left knee tendon, and Steve Cherundolo replaced defenders Jonathan Spector and Clarence Goodson to start the second half and Findley and Jose Torres entered as well. "They brought energy," Bradley said. "The whole flow of the game changed."
US aggression was rewarded when Findley chipped the ball away to set up a pass to Donovan that lured Demirel out too far to his left, setting up Altidore's equalizer and the US fightback.