The U.S. beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in a Prague friendly that marked the first match since the World Cup for Jurgen Klinsmann's team. And a very different team it was.
The U.S. squad was comprised of players who will either be the future of the team or long forgotten by the time the 2018 World Cup rolls around. Jozy Altidore, who suffered a hamstring injury just 20 minutes into the U.S.'s World Cup opener against Ghana that ended the tournament for him, wore the captain's armband. Presumably because he had more than twice as many caps as anyone else in the squad.
Facing a Czech team featuring mostly older players — including the likes of Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky — Klinsmann's kids took advantage of their lethargic display early on. Mix Diskerud, who watched the World Cup from the bench, was a first-half standout in midfield, as was 21-year-old winger Joe Gyau, who has already impressed with Borussia Dortmund's reserve team this season. Julian Green was given his first start for the U.S. after firing up the hype machine with his goal against Belgium at the World Cup, but both he and Altidore were pretty quiet, while Brad Guzan — the man bumped up to first-choice goalkeeper during Tim Howard's recently announced year-long sabbatical — went largely untested.
Alejandro Bedoya, who played in all four of the U.S.'s World Cup matches, scored the game's only goal off the rebound and on an open net in the 39th minute when Diskerud took the ball off a Czech midfielder and had his initial shot blocked by Cech. In the second half, the Czech Republic started taking things more seriously and had several good chances that could have given them a goal or two had it not been for another fine performance from substitute keeper Nick Rimando.
The U.S. held on for the win, though, and got their first ever win against a country that beat them 3-0 at the 2006 World Cup. And they did it with an unlikely collection of players. John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Joe Gyau, Julian Green and Jozy Altidore were the only guys to go the full 90 minutes for the U.S.
So what does this mean for the road to the 2018 World Cup? Virtually nothing. Before the match, Klinsmann said his goal was to reach the semifinals in Russia and several of the players featured in this match could help him do that. But if they do, it will have very little to do with this match. In fact, the most important takeaway from a U.S. perspective is probably that they are now undefeated with Altidore wearing the captain's armband (and on European soil no less!). That sentence alone will probably melt the brains of many Premier League fans.
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