Nice and early Sunday morning, Team USA will get its second warmup contest leading up to the World Cup in Brazil.
The first one was a bit of a mixed bag in the Americans’ 2-0 win over an overmatched Azerbaijan. Next up comes the second toughest test, this one Sunday at 11:30 a.m. local time against Turkey at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. (The toughest test will be the US’ final tuneup against fellow World Cup qualifier Nigeria.)
As the US tries to find its rhythm before landing in Brazil, here’s three things to watch for in their quest to shore up the squad.
Jozy Altidore took some heat because he went another game without scoring for the US. That scoreless streak hit 12 when he didn’t tally against an Azerbaijan team that only at times looked interested in playing. But Altidore played his role admirably in the opener. As the bigger striker in a two-striker set, it’s Altidore’s job to hold off defenders, win balls in the air and on the ground, and lay them off to other players. He did all those things in that first tuneup game. Now he just needs to put one in the back of the net to quiet the pundits.
2. Clint Dempsey’s health.
The US captain is reportedly ready to play. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said earlier this week that Dempsey will start on Sunday. But Klinsmann and Team USA also said he would play in the opener of the three friendlies before scratching him minutes before facing Azerbaijan. A sore groin kept Dempsey out on Tuesday. And even during training earlier this week, reports from the US camp said Dempsey was being treated tenderly, not being allowed to do a lot of side to side running. Let’s see if he starts on Sunday and if he does, how comfortable he appears.
3. Is a diamond this team’s best friend?
Klinsmann has played the US in a 4-4-2 formation the last two games, where the four midfielders have aligned in a diamond formation, with two outside wingers, one midfielder up top in an attacking position and one midfielder in a defensive position, like the bottom of a diamond. The formation works well with Michael Bradely at the top, but Jermaine Jones still needs some work at the bottom of the diamond. Kyle Beckerman works much better in that position. But Klinsmann prefers Jones — and a lot of fans, this one included, have no idea why — so the German-born player needs to figure it out better and extremely quickly. It will be interesting to see: 1. if Klinsmann sticks with this and 2. who takes the field.