HARRISON, New Jersey - From the time the U.S. national team's send-off series was announced, the matchup against Turkey was seen as one that would provide the kind of stiff test the Americans would need in order to prepare for the World Cup group of death.
Turkey may have been missing star midfielder Arda Turan, but still provided a good challenge for the Americans. but the U.S. handled that challenge well, riding goals from Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey on the way to a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena.
Fabian Johnson scored the first goal of his national team career, running onto a perfect chip pass from Michael Bradley in the 26th minute and slotting home the opener.
Dempsey made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute when a botched clearance attempted by a Turkish defender left him with a look directly in front of goal. Dempsey's quick reaction helped him beat the Turkish goalkeeper to the ball for the finish.
"Overall, I think it was a nice game to watch," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said after the match. "A beautiful first goal by Fabian Johnson with Michael Bradley there chipping it over the backline. Wonderful crowd, great support and everybody’s getting more and more excited about the World Cup."
Klinsmann brought in John Brooks, Kyle Beckerman and Brad Guzan at halftime. While he did have praise for Jones' first-half performance, Klinsmann thought the starting lineup left too much space for Turkey to exploit in the first half.
"We need to close the gaps up better, so we still have a lot of work ahead of us to become more compact, more connected between the players to make it more difficult for the opponents to come through there," Klinsmann said.
Turkey tested the U.S. defense on several occasions, but couldn't put a serious challenge on Tim Howard in the first half. The U.S. back four turned in a strong first half, with Jermaine Jones playing the defensive midfield role very well in front of the defense.
"Defensively it was good. They caused us some trouble with good individual play," Howard said. "They spread us out. Obviously we defended narrow and they spread us out so we had to make some adjustments.
"To have those changes in the back-line at halftime is never easy, but I thought (John Brooks) came in and played really well. We almost had a clean sheet, and the penalty takes the gloss off it a little bit, but I thought we played well."
Jozy Altidore was a handful throughout the match, and while he couldn't snap his goal drought, he did draw praise from both coaches.
“He's a very powerful striker," Turkey coach Fatih Terim said. "The type of striker that the centerbacks don’t like much. He likes to hold up the ball, therefore his teammates can join in the attack. He’s a very important player.”
"It is the Jozy that we want to see," Klinsmann said after the match. "He will, sooner or later, break through with goals. It's just you've got to work for it and stay hungry and grind it out, and sooner or later it's time and 'boom' it's in the net."
Klinsmann gave several players their first appearance in the World Cup send-off series on Sunday, including Brooks and Julian Green. Brooks impressed in central defense, playing alongside Geoff Cameron and cutting out several Turkey attacking forays. Green was somewhat quiet, but did appear to draw a penalty only to have the referee wave off demands for a penalty call.
The Turkish team spoiled the shutout in the 90th minute when a handball in the penalty area called against Cameron gave the visiting side a late consolation penalty kick, with Selcuc Ilan converted the penalty kick.
The U.S. concludes its World Cup send-off series on Saturday against Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida. After that friendly, the Americans depart for Brazil ahead of their opening World Cup match against Ghana on June 16 in Natal.