PHILADELPHIA — There were several explanations provided as to how the USA turned around a dismal first half of play to register a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Turkey on Saturday. It was the most notable story line of the afternoon.
The prevailing wisdom was that the halftime substitutions, particularly Jose Francisco Torres and Robbie Findley, made the difference.
“I think all the players that came on at halftime helped,” said head coach Bob Bradley. “They brought energy, and, in particular, José [Torres] found a very good way, when we’re trying to push the game, of finding spots, getting the ball and getting the ball moving.”
However, the second-half improvement was a sore point for midfielder Michael Bradley, who was visibly irked at the question when asked about it by MLSsoccer.com.
“What makes you say that? No. I don’t believe it,” Bradley snapped. “You think just because we scored two goals in the second half that now the second half is so much better than the first? Ninety minutes we played, we won 2-1, nothing else to say.”
The reaction of the younger Bradley resembled his outburst after the final of the Confederations Cup group stage last year, when he dedicated the 3-0 victory over Egypt to the team’s media critics.
Landon Donovan, on the other hand, kept it straight, saying that the concentration on fitness over the first part of the US training camp may have hurt the team’s sharpness on the ball in the early going against Turkey. But Jozy Altidore felt it provided an edge in the second half.
“I think that’s fitness,” Altidore said. “That’s what we’ve been working on. Clearly our legs were still with us in the second half. Turkey legs went a little bit. I think that helps.”
Clint Dempsey, who moved to left midfield with the introduction of Findley at forward, felt that the RSL forward’s speed was a chief factor in a chain of events that led to a dominant performance after the break.
“Findley coming in with the pace he has forced the defense to drop off,” Dempsey said. “Therefore we were able to get more time on the ball and therefore we had the ball more. And I think they got tired [chasing].”
For fans hoping to see the likes of Findley and Torres start a match, it may actually be part of the USA’s strategy to start off conservatively and have them come off the bench. Bob Bradley spoke about the need for a match to play out before his team will be aggressive about pushing the match.
“Often times there’s a period of time where you just need to play through things and then the game starts to open up and then you take advantage,” Bradley said. “We understood that. We understood clearly we needed to push the game in an intelligent way … The whole flow of the game changed at half time.”
There’s a bus ride to DC and a long plane ride to South Africa for the younger Bradley to come to grips with the plain truth that the two halves against Turkey were truly like night and day.