The United States men’s national team began the long road toward Russia 2018 with a 1-0 win over Czech Republic in Prague thanks to Alejandro Bedoya’s first-half goal. In its first match since exiting the 2014 World Cup, a much-changed side secured an encouraging result on the road, although they had to ride their luck on several occasions. On a night where three players were handed their debuts by coach Jürgen Klinsmann, it was one the lineup’s most experienced members, Bedoya, who got the only goal when supplying a simple finish after Mix Diskerud capitalized on some sloppy play from the Czechs.
Bedoya and Fabian Johnson were the only players to start at the Generali Arena who had been in the lineup for the agonizing last-16 defeat to Belgium in Brazil two months ago. Much of that was down to Klinsmann being prevented from selecting players from Major League Soccer, with the exception of substitute goalkeeper Nick Rimando. But that restriction provided an intriguing look at several young players who will be looking to make their mark ahead of the next World Cup.
With Klinsmann having set a target of a semifinal place in Russia in four years’ time, standards are now high. Debuts were handed to Joe Gyau, Emerson Hyndman and Greg Garza, while Julian Green, who scored that dramatic goal with his first touch against Belgium, earned a first start for the U.S. and defender Tim Ream received his first cap in more than three years. In a new 4-3-3 formation, Klinsmann’s side had some impressive spells on the ball in the first half, with Diskerud showing some classy touches and Gyau lively as part of a front three. The second half proved much tougher and in the end the visitors were grateful for some fine saves by Rimando and some wasteful finishing by a Czech side that need to improve quick, with its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign beginning against the Netherlands next week.
Gyau, a 21-year-old from Borrusia Dortmund’s second team, was the game’s liveliest player earlier on and tested Petr Cech in the hosts’ goal with a low shot after impressively holding off an opposition midfielder. Still, there were signs of the Czech’s experience and quality. After Green lost possession, Tomas Rosicky was played through down the left and his low cross just failed to be turned in by Vladimir Darida. Darida’s evening was about to get worse six minutes before the half-time interval. After receiving and unwanted an unwise throw out from Cech, the midfielder was well pressured by Diskerud, who robbed him of possession and stormed forward into the box. Diskerud’s shot wasn’t the best and was parried by Cech, but Bedoya was on hand to convert into an unguarded net.
At the other end, Brad Guzan had been handed the start in what was the first match for Klinsmann’s team since Tim Howard announced he was stepping away from the international fold for the next year. The Aston Villa goalkeeper did nothing wrong, but he was upstaged by the performance of his replacement at the interval. Rimando made several superb saves, a couple with his feet, as the Czech’s applied the pressure to a U.S. back line that became further inexperienced with the introduction of debutant Garza and Alfredo Morales, who previously had just one cap to his name. Coupled with some profligate Czech finishing, the Real Salt Lake stopper helped Klinsmann get another impressive win in Europe.