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May 30, 2010
U.S. World Cup Team still smoothing out rough edges

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

US goalkeeper Tim Howard doesn’t try to hide his displeasure with his backline after a near-miss by Turkey in Saturday’s send-off match in Philadelphia.
US goalkeeper Tim Howard doesn’t try to hide his displeasure with his backline after a near-miss by Turkey in Saturday’s send-off match in Philadelphia.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
United States goalkeeper Tim Howard spent a lot of time during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Turkey yelling at his defenders.

Defensive lapses, especially in the first half, were costly for the United States as Turkey took a 1-0 lead, and had several other chances to score.

"It had to be more cohesive because we weren't great in the first half,” said Howard of the defense. “It was a slap in the face what happened in the first half and they hit us hard. They were getting too many chances, too many good opportunities and good looks that we had to tighten up.”

The Turks took advantage of the holes in the 27th minute, when Jonathan Spector, on a long overlap from the right flank, lost the ball at the edge of the Turkey penalty area. Colin-Kazim Richards sent a diagonal pass to the left side to an onrushing Arda Turan, who beat Jay DeMerit before depositing the ball into the net.

“We don't shift over quick enough and I think we took for granted that Jonathan went forward. We didn't shift enough and fill the hole and as it was, we had no cover and it was like a fire drill trying to put it out. One minor breakdown will lead to a goal," said Howard.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley made some changes in the second half, when Oguchi Onyewu took over for central defender Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo went in for Spector at right fullback. The changes helped the defense settle in.

“It was one of those things that in the second half, we did a really good job of shutting them out," said Howard "The second half was much better.”

Howard, who played in Major League Soccer for the NY/NJ MetroStars before transferring to Manchester United, has been the starting goalkeeper at Everton since 2006, a place he says is comfortable and home.

With his experience in the Premier League, Howard has a pretty good take on the players the United States will face in their World Cup opener against England on June 11, but says he doesn’t need to impart any specific wisdom or information on players such as Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch. More important is that the team learn from the breakdowns that hurt in Saturday’s game.

"We're going to have to,” he said. “I think the lapse in these high level games, we (get) punished. “

The team departs for South Africa on Sunday, and has one more tuneup before the World Cup starts, against Australia on June 5.

“We have the game on the fifth, another opportunity against another team that's in a tough group,” said Howard. “You can't count on the intensity to be too high but it'll be a good exercise for us to go out there and find our speed going into the first match. I think it'll be good in terms of performance. If we put in a good performance that we can feel good about ourselves, then we can go into the first game on a positive note."

Midfielder Clint Dempsey says one of the U.S. team’s strengths is its ability to make adjustments and come back.

“Even when things weren’t going well, we were able to try different things, figure something else out and make it work for us,” said Dempsey.

Dempsey says observers should not take much from the fact that the team is still trying to get its act together.

“We’re still trying to get sharp, trying to get everybody on the same page,” said the Fulham midfielder, who is also very familiar with all of England’s players.

“It’s difficult when all these players are coming from different clubs, different positions trying to make this team the best that it can be.”

The team has 11 days to figure out how good that is.

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