BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, May 28, 2010
The United States national team will be looking to create momentum heading into the World Cup when they take on Turkey in the send-off game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
The US hope to reverse the losing trend it has been on for the past seven months having won only one game in their past seven.
Their most recent loss was 4-2 defeat on Tuesday to the Czech Republic in Connecticut. That game was primarily used as final evaluation for players on the fringe of making the World Cup team.
This game should be different, however, as the US is expecting to use its best players for the first time since October. It also marks the first game played with the final 23 man World Cup roster following head coach Bob Bradley's seven player cuts on Wednesday.
With just Saturday's game plus the friendly against Australia a week later in Roodepoort, South Africa serving as the only two contests remaining before the opener against England on June 12th, it is likely that Bradley will be starting his first team in both matches.
The biggest uncertainties on the team are at the forward positions. First team regular Jozy Altidore should be on the field to start the match. Whomever partners with the 20 year old is still very uncertain. The three remaining forwards on the roster, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle were all late inclusions and did not participate in World Cup qualifying.
With neither of the three having yet played a match with a US team that consists of first team starters, it is unclear as to whom Bradley considers to be Altidore's forward partner in the typical US 4-4-2 formation.
It can be expected that several of the forwards will see the field to determine who starts the US' first game in two weeks time versus England
It is also very possible that Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey starts the match at forward, a position where he has experience playing. That formation would allow Bradley to start two players who played regularly in the English Premier League last season.
In the midfield, there is less confusion as there are a number of experienced options. Landon Donovan is almost certain to start at left midfielder and Michael Bradley is most likely to be part of the central midfield.
Dempsey is probably a safe bet to start on the right side but if he is moved to forward, Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden could make his third consecutive national team start.
Bradley's central midfield partner will either come down to Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Ricardo Clark, who played well last summer in the Confederations Cup, or Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu, who finished the season strong for the Scottish champions.
Also likely to see action in the midfield as second half substitutes are central midfielders Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and resurgent winger DaMarcus Beasley.
Tuesday's loss to the Czech Republic showed that the US is vulnerable to defensive breakdowns and that changes need to be made. Oguchi Onyewu will look to get himself back to complete match fitness as he is likely to play in his second straight game following a seven month absence following a serious knee injury.
While Onyewu is a probable starter, every other position is a toss-up. At right back, it will either be Hannover's Steve Cherundolo or West Ham's Jonathan Spector. At center back, either Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, or the injury plagued Jay Demerit will pair with Onyewu.
The left back position has been the most glaring weakness on the team this whole cycle and last Tuesday it was most apparent. Both Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce struggled badly and were responsible for multiple goals. Pearce was cut from the team and it is possible that Bradley's confidence in Bornstein has been shaken.
The remaining options at left back are either to move Bocanegra to that position, the same spot where he plays for his club, Rennes, or to move the versatile Spector to the left where he has played for his club but rarely for the US.
At the goalkeeping position, Tim Howard is slated to start. While backup Brad Guzan started on Tuesday, Howard will likely play the majority of the remaining friendlies as he is the unquestioned top choice at the position.
The US will face tough opposition in the City of Brotherly Love when they take on a pesky Turkey team. While Turkey missed out on this summer's World Cup after finishing in third place in their UEFA qualifying group behind Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina, they are looking to build towards qualification for the 2012 European Championships.
Turkey enters into the game ranked 29th in the latest FIFA rankings. They have won their first two games of their US tour defeating the Czech Republic 2-1 and Northern Ireland 2-0.
Turkey will certainly be one of the most anticipated teams in coming years thanks to their hiring of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink who some consider the best international coach in the world.
Hiddink will formally take over the team in August but he is with the team in the US to help interim head coach Oguz Cetin.
While the Turkish team consists of many players playing in the Turkish league, they also will be lead by Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit Altintop and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin.
A very large and pro-American crowd is expected in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. The last time the US played in Philadelphia was at the 2009 Gold Cup when they defeated Panama 2-1 in extra time in the quarterfinals. Saturday's send-off will be the only game the 2010 World Cup team plays on US soil.