Milli Takım MatchDay: Turkey vs. United StatesNational Team • Author: Nathan Redd • Saturday, May 29, 2010
İstanbul is known as the city on two continents, but they can add North America to the list on Saturday, as thousands of Turks will turn Philadelphia into 'İstanbul West.' The Turkish National Team will play the final friendly of their American tour, taking on the United States from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Kickoff for Saturday's match is set for 2 PM EST (21:00 Turkish time; 7 PM in the U.K.).
A game between Turkey and United States matches one of the most passionate football nations with a country where football is another sport altogether. The Turks have the history and passion, as well as tremendous international success over the past decade. Instead, the United States are on their way to the world's most prestigious sporting competition, while Turkey failed to qualify for the event under former coach Fatih Terim. The two teams with very different agendas will meet Saturday in an international friendly in Philadelphia.
Despite the match being on American soil, the hosts will likely be the underdogs Saturday. The crowd will be full of thousands of Turks and their fans, and Turkey have easily handled the previous two competitors on their American tour. One of those matches was against the Czech Republic, in which Turkey dominated from start to finish despite not playing in more than two months and missing a number of key players. A short-handed Czech Republic squad turned around and defeated the Americans 4-2 earlier this week, sending fans of United States 'soccer' into a panic ahead of next month's competition.
Turkey's coach-in-waiting Guus Hiddink spoke with reporters on Friday, stating that the current American tour has been very productive for his team. The squad will play their third and final match Saturday before heading back to İstanbul. Hiddink still has much work to do, however, as Euro 2012 qualifying is just around the corner for his team.
To say that Hiddink has motivated his new team would be an enormous understatement. After suffering disappointment under Fatih Terim, the squad is playing with confidence and is regaining their swagger on the world stage. They've risen to 29th in the latest FIFA World Rankings, and Hiddink has the players ready to redeem themselves after failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
While Turkey hope to gain match experience and end their tour on a winning note, the Americans have much more to play for. Coach Bob Bradley rested many of his starters earlier this week in the friendly against the Czech Republic, but the equally short-handed Czechs easily slid past the United States 4-2 in Hartford, Connecticut. Much like Fatih Terim, Bradley has faced criticism for inconsistent performances with the team. Many fans of American 'soccer' have been critical of Bradley and the team, but the coach told reporters this week that he plans to field a full-strength squad against the Turks. "We'll have a team that I think will be close to our regular team," he said Friday. Defender Oguchi Onyewu, who nearly signed with Turkish giants Fenerbahçe last year, said playing against European powers such as Turkey will help prepare the squad for South Africa. "We look for these games to fine tune things. I don't think playing teams of lesser quality is going to help us at all," he said. "It's going to help us pinpoint certain weaknesses or things we have to work on as a group."
The Americans will have their hands full with Turkey on Saturday, but they're hoping to gain some sort of momentum heading into the World Cup. The team leaves for South Africa on Sunday, following the Turkey match.
These two countries have met twice previously, with Turkey defeating the United States 2-1 in 2003. The two sides finished in a 1-1 draw in their only other previous meeting back in 1991. The two countries have had other connections recently. American Oguchi Onyewu was previously a teammate of Turkey's Emre Belözoğlu, when Onyewu was briefly on loan to Newcastle United. Several players from both sides play against each other in club competition in England, Spain, Germany, and France.
The United States will be looking to test their squad against a European power, while Turkey hope to wrap up their American tour with a perfect 3-0 record. The two sides face each other Saturday at 2 PM EST (21:00 Turkish time; 7 PM in the U.K.) from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The game can be seen live in Turkey on NTVSpor, and in the United States on ESPN2, Galavision, and ESPN3.com.