PHILADELPHIA - Whatever red flags and ticking clocks confront the U.S soccer team, a mere 12 days from its first match in the 2010 World Cup tournament, seemed a bit less daunting in light of yesterday's second-half play that produced a 2-1 Cup tuneup victory over Turkey.
After an aimless first half in which their unsettled defense was exposed and their offensive personnel appeared to be dancing to several different tunes, the Americans suddenly conjured an aggressiveness and sharpness that should serve them well when they arrive in South Africa for the monthlong championship event.
Landon Donovan, so often the architect of Yank efficiency, assisted on both U.S. goals - by Jozy Altidore in the 58th minute and by Clint Dempsey in the 75th - allowing coach Bob Bradley to declare that, "in terms of what you want out of a send-off game, today was very good."
Bradley cited the large crowd - 55,407, though a good portion of them wore Turkey red and waved Turkish flags - and "a real good push on the field when we were behind. Overall, a lot was accomplished."
"It took us too long to figure out what we had to do," Donovan said. "The organization is not there. But you have to get through the rough patches."
Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic in East Hartford and yesterday's wobbly first half both reminded that three main characters on defense - Oguchi Onyewu (knee), Carlos Bocanegra (hernia) and Jay DeMerit (abdomen) - all are barely recovered from injury, and would be sorely missed if unavailable.
Bradley declined to burden right back Jonathan Spector with too much blame after Spector's shaky first half. It was Spector's offensive charge, and the failure of both him and his teammates to cover the resulting Turkey counterattack, that allowed Arda Turan a clear path to a goal in the 27th minute.
His team's "reaction when the ball turned over," Bradley allowed, "wasn't what it needed to be." But he argued that the Americans' first-half bumbling was not especially alarming. "I think it's important to understand," he said, "that it's too different halves. Things need to be sorted before the game starts to open up."
With four second-half substitutes - Steve Cherundolo for Spector and Onyewu for Clarence Goodson on defense, plus Jose Torres for Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley for Benny Feilhaber in the midfield - the game indeed opened up for the Americans. "All of those players brought energy," Bradley said, "and in particular Jose found a way to get the ball and get the ball moving. He was sharp, he found the right people and covered all the holes well."
Repeated offensive rushes soon led to Findley chipping the pass to Donovan that Donovan, flying into the penalty area, toed away from Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel before dropping the ball for Altidore in front of an open net. The second U.S. score came when Donovan surged down the right wing and slipped the ball to Dempsey for a low shot into the left corner.
"It's good," Dempsey said, "for us to beat a quality side and be going in the right direction. We're still trying to get our confidence and get our sharpness. But we showed, in the second half, we were able to turn things around."
Past the point of no return, the Yanks now take what they have to the World Cup.