By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. men's national team will take on Turkey in its final game on American soil before the World Cup, and the match should provide head coach Bob Bradley with a real look at his starting eleven.
With the final 23-man roster finalized, Saturday's match at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA (2pm, ESPN2) should help Bradley fine tune his team as it heads towards South Africa. Approximately two weeks separate the United States from its World Cup opener against England, making this friendly a critical one.
"We need to get things right on the field," said Tim Howard. "We need to get all the details and kinks ironed out and you can only do that by getting on the field and working through. You can do bits and pieces in training, but the game is most important."
One of the things Bradley is likely keen to assess is his defense. With three of four starters returning from injury, the Turks should provide a stiff challenge for a unit that has not been completely healthy since last August.
Questions remain about Oguchi Onyewu's race to brush off the rustiness picked up during his seven month injury spell. There is also uncertainty about how Carlos Bocanegra will cope, having come off of hernia surgery earlier this month.
"It's imperative as a goalkeeper you get together and pull the strings and get those guys tight and on the right page," Howard said. "It is important. We saw that last summer, we saw that the last three years. These guys have had a few injuries, and (Onyewu) is coming back from one and Carlos and Jay (DeMerit). We all need to get on the field and feel good about ourselves and put in a good performance."
If Onyewu or Bocanegra struggle, Bradley could turn to Maurice Edu, who played the final 24 minutes of Tuesday's friendly against the Czech Republic at centerback. Bradley will use the match to gauge his starters, but having the luxury of experimenting in a game where the result doesn't matter is a fact likely not lost on the coach.
"If he does (experiment), this is the time," said Jozy Altidore. "These games are the perfect time. There is no consequence. You don't lose points in these games."
Whether Bradley opts to tinker with his lineup or not, playing Turkey in the final match of the send-off series will likely prove a good measuring stick for the United States.
"We need a stern test, we need a strong test," said Howard. "We don't want to go into South Africa with any questions. We want to feel like we've done all the right things."
What do you think of Saturday's game? What will you be looking for? Think the back four will produce a solid outing? Do you see the U.S. national team winning?