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June 1, 2014
USA still putting things together

By Michael Lewis, Editor

HARRISON, N.J. - World Cup warm-up matches given what they are, it isn't always about winning, but the way the team plays and whether the team can avoid injuries.

If you take that into consideration, then Sunday was a rousing success for the United States.

In their 2-1 win over Turkey, the Americans did enough right things to secure their second win of the week, following a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan in San Francisco on Tuesday.

And no one was injured.

Sunday's win was a workmanlike performance in front of an enthusiastic and record Red Bull Arena crowd of 26,721 as midfielder-turned-right back Fabian Johnson tallied his first international goal and Clint Dempsey, who missed Tuesday's match with groin issues, added an insurance strike in the second half.

Still, there is much work to be done, especially since the USA plays in Group G in Brazil, aka the Group of Death.

"It's important not to overanalyze these games," central midfielder Michael Bradley said. "There's a World Cup coming up and everybody wants to now look at every play in every minute in every game, but it's important to now look at these games in the context of a bigger picture."

If that is the case, the Americans certainly played better than they did against Azerbaijan, but the attack-minded Turks showed some weaknesses in the defense, team and backline, especially in the early going.

"It was quite an open game," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We need to close the gaps up a bit better. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. We [need to be] ... more compact, more connected between the players to make it more difficult for the players to come through there."

Added Bradley: "These are little things that can be tweaked, depending on the opponent. We were not as organized as much as we liked. They were able to use their skill and technical ability to get through us in the second half."

The U.S. managed to survive -- behind the first-half goalkeeping of Tim Howard, who recorded his 54th international triumph to surpass Kasey Keller's U.S. record -- and eventually prosper behind an unlikely goal-scorer in the 26th minute.

An overlapping Johnson passed the ball to Bradley, who waited for the defender to sprint into the penalty area before chipping the ball back to him. Johnson scored from six yards out against goalkeeper Onur Recept Kivrak for a 1-0 lead.

“He kind of told me with the way he was running that he was going to keep running through," Bradley said

Added Klinsmann: "On his celebration, you could see that he's not an experienced goal-scorer.”

Dempsey, a more experienced hand at scoring goals, struck his 37th international goal from a yard out in the 52nd minute as he took advantage of a questionable defensive clear by Hakan Kadir Balta off a nifty left-wing cross by left back Timmy Chandler.

"He's so smart, getting into the pockets and getting on the end of things," said fellow striker Jozy Altidore, who did not score as his personal scoring drought for club and country reached 1,861 minutes.

The U.S. certainly needed that goal because Turkey scored on Selcuk Inan's penalty kick after Geoff Cameron was called for a hand ball in the 90th minute.

There were some encouraging signs as well. John Brooks, a 6-4, 170-lb. central defender who plays with Hertha Berlin (Germany) and is one of six German-based players on the roster, replaced Matt Besler at one of the central defender spots at halftime. He acquitted himself well, clearing and knocking away everything that the Turks sent toward the goal.

"It's important to get these guys out there and get their minutes," Klinsmann said. "His (Brooks) performance today just confirmed what we have seen in his training sessions. As a young man growing into a bigger, bigger role. He's feeling more and more part of this groove and strongly about breaking in there."

The USA will play Nigeria in Jacksonville on Saturday in its final warm-up match before flying down to Brazil.

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