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United States beats Turkey in World Cup warm-up

Goals by Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey lead the U.S. to 2-1 victory
06/01/2014 8:22 PM ET
By Grant Tunkel

After breaking the U.S. wins record on Sunday, goalkeeper Tim Howard is ready for the World Cup to begin on June 16.(AP)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- With one game remaining before the United States heads to Brazil, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann has decisions to make about his starting back four. As for Klinsmann's No. 1 goalkeeper, that's never been in doubt.

Tim Howard kept a first-half clean sheet en route to his record-setting 54th victory in net for the United States, a 2-1 victory over Turkey at sold-out Red Bull Arena on Sunday.

He passed Kasey Keller for the all-time wins mark.

"I feel much more at ease, I feel much more calm," Howard said of his demeanor heading into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil vs. how he felt before the 2010 competition. "That's just another four years under my belt and a few hundred games. That's what experience does for you."

As the U.S. tried to find its footing early in the match, Howard made a pair of key saves. Once the Americans established a rhythm, they threatened often.

Jozy Altidore appeared to score off a corner kick in the 15th minute, but the goal was disallowed as Altidore was called for a foul. Minutes later, Michael Bradley's curling shot toward the far post was blocked by a last-ditch effort.

The U.S. finally broke through in the 26th minute, when Fabian Johnson finished off a give-and-go with Bradley.

Johnson, who started at right back, controlled along the right side of the offensive half before running toward the center and passing to Bradley. Johnson continued his run toward goal and Bradley laid a perfect pass over two Turkish defenders. The right back struck a one-timed, half-volley into the far corner to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.

"Beautiful first goal," Klinsmann said after the match. "Fabian is very difficult to read for every opponent."

Johnson's goal was his first in 21 international appearances. Klinsmann jokingly said of the ensuing celebration, "You could see he's not a very experienced goal-scorer."

Early in the second half, the U.S. doubled its advantage through Clint Dempsey.

Timmy Chandler played a cross into the box, where defender Hakan Kadir Balta and goalkeeper Onur Recep Kivrak were unable to clear or corral the ball. Dempsey, all alone on the doorstep, put it home for a 2-0 lead.

For Dempsey, it was his 37th tally in a United States uniform. He became the third American to score at least one international goal in 10 consecutive seasons.

"I felt really good today, especially the first half. I felt really sharp," said Dempsey, who was a late scratch before the Americans' previous match against Azerbaijan due to groin soreness. "Happy with the result."

Dempsey said the second half, which featured 12 substitutions and numerous other stoppages, was "a little bit more sluggish, a little bit slower pace."

Still, the U.S. pressed on, with Altidore stretching Turkey's defense. The forward, who was born in Livingston, New Jersey, was unable to score in front of the home crowd. His best chance came in the 81st minute, when Kivrak made a save from point-blank range.

The goals haven't come for Altidore, who endured a difficult season with Sunderland of the Premier League. He tallied just twice in 39 appearances for the Black Cats, once in league competition.

But his play Sunday earned plenty of praise. Klinsmann and Dempsey both said Altidore was "unlucky" to finish without a goal. Turkey's head coach, Fatih Terim, put Altidore at the top of the list when asked which U.S. players impressed him the most.

"It would've been nice [to score], but at the end of the day, we're happy with the result," Altidore said. "The most important thing is, the team looks really good. We created a lot of chances. It was positive."

The U.S. seemed to dictate play in the second half, and Brad Guzan snuffed out any chances the visitors had. Guzan, who replaced Howard after the break, made a pair of near-post saves early in the final 45 minutes.

Turkey's only goal came in the 90th minute, when Selçuk İnan converted a penalty just past the outstretched arms of Guzan. Moments earlier, Geoff Cameron handled the ball on the line to set up the opportunity.

As for the back four, it remains a work in progress. Matt Besler, Cameron, Chandler and Johnson started. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks played in the second half.

"Defensively, especially in the first half, we needed to make some corrections at halftime. We needed to close the gaps a bit better," Klinsmann said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to become more compact and more connected between the players."

But the coach said his unit is improving.

"The fine-tuning element is coming along. It's getting better," he said.

The United States will play one more warm-up match, June 7 against Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla. Then it's off to Brazil, with the U.S. opening World Cup play June 16 against Ghana.

The back four will certainly be finalized by then. As for the man in net, Howard, there should be no qualms. The winningest goalie in American soccer history will anchor the other 10 men on the field that day.

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