PHILADELPHIA — With the US down 1-0 at halftime, it was obvious substitutions were on their way at the break. Few would have guessed that Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley would be among those called to right the ship against Turkey on Saturday.
Bob Bradley informed Findley in the locker room that he would be introduced after halftime. Findley's insertion injected new life into the team as the second half gave birth to a whole new game from the USMNT.
“Findley coming in with the pace he has forced the defense to drop off,” said Clint Dempsey of the reaction by the Turks. “Therefore we were able to get more time on the ball, therefore we had the ball more, and I think they got tired.”
However, Findley’s impact on the scoresheet had little to do with his pace. Instead, it was a touch of finesse in the 58th minute that will prove to be the lasting memory of his appearance at Lincoln Financial Field.
He collected a ball outside the box and after a good job controlling the ball, he lofted a pass which hit Landon Donovan in stride inside the Turkish penalty area. Donovan and Jozy Altidore did the rest as the US equalized at 1-1.
“You can tell he made a difference with his pace from the get-go,” Altidore said. “He was making runs in behind and causing problems that we didn’t cause in the first half … Honestly, the weight of the pass and everything was phenomenal. He’s certainly getting a little confidence and it’s starting to come out a little bit.”
Not only was the pass surprising because it has rarely been seen as part of his repertoire in MLS, but the play also belied the fact that he was only on his fifth international cap and, seemingly, a surefire bet to be among the first players cut from the World Cup roster just a few days ago.
Bradley will have felt somewhat vindicated that Findley produced immediate results in the face of a majority of skeptics who felt Brian Ching was more deserving of being picked. The coach praised Findley’s energy, his ability to get behind Turkey's back line, his sharpness and, above all, his confidence.
This week, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman said he was the least surprised of anyone about Findley’s selection to the final squad of 23.
"He’s just got those ice-cold veins,” Beckerman told MLSsoccer.com.
“I think it’s something you just have,” Findley acknowledged.
Altidore’s pairing with Findley was eerily reminiscent of that with the equally speedy Charlie Davies. Findley may not be on this World Cup squad if it had not been for the car accident that prevented Davies from being fit for the tournament.
Findley is aware of the comparisons, and he admits he is here to replicate what Davies did for the USA.
“We’re similar players,” Findley said. “That’s what I’m here for—speed—and to get the opportunity in front of goal to be able to score some goals and just cause problems all around for the defenders.”
It’s that peskiness and work rate that marked Davies' time with the squad. With the Turkish team playing its third match in a week and the heat and humidity taking their toll, Landon Donovan felt that Findley’s inclusion was timely.
“Jozy and Clint and myself and the other midfielders are wearing out defenders and when you bring [Findley] in, it’s an absolute nightmare for the other team,” Donovan said.
US fans hope this nightmare is a recurring one throughout the World Cup.