Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Featuring an inexperienced and young side, the U.S. Men’s National Team achieved something on Wednesday evening that they’ve seldom done before.
Alejandro Bedoya’s first-half goal proved to be the difference as the USMNT defeated the Czech Republic, 1-0, at the Generali Arena. The U.S. team’s first match since being eliminated in the World Cup Round of 16 also the USMNT’s first victory against the Czech Republic after two previous losses.
Nick Rimando stepped in for Brad Guzan at halftime and helped Bedoya’s goal stand up by making a flurry of key saves to keep the Czechs off the board.
Three players made their national team debuts on Wednesday. Joe Gyau started and impressed on the right wing, while substitutes Greg Garza and Emerson Hyndman also made their debuts.
With Tim Howard taking a 12-month break from the USMNT, Jozy Altidore was handed the armband, but found life difficult in the match, playing alongside World Cup teammate Julian Green on the left and the debutant Gyau on the right.
Gyau was one of the brighter players on the park in the first half, though his service forward didn’t always reach the target. The U.S. struggled for the most part with their midfield trio of Mix Diskerud, Bedoya, and Joe Corona connecting with the forwards, often times needing to use the speed of the full backs on the wings to connect the attack.
A Green turnover off a corner kick in the 34th minute allowed the Czech Republic to rush forward on a three-on-two counter attack, with Tomas Rosicky leading the break. Rosicky took on Diskerud and crossed to the far post, beating U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the process, but Vladimir Darida couldn’t direct his sliding shot on target.
The USMNT found their breakthrough in the 39th minute off an error from the Czech Republic. Goalkeeper Petr Cech’s pass out to Darida took an awkward bounce on the field and Darida couldn’t control it. Diskerud stepped forward to take the ball away and race towards goal, firing a low strike towards Cech.
The Chelsea goalkeeper parried the shot to his right, but Bedoya, following up on the play, was first to the ball to power it home and give the U.S. the lead.
The hosts made three changes to the USMNT’s two changes at halftime, and throughout the second half began to impose themselves more on the game.
Rimando came on for Guzan at halftime and had a busy half, making four saves as well as patrolling his area for crosses from the wings.
In the 61st minute, Gyau found himself out of position on the left side of the box, leaving Ladislav Krejci alone on goal. Krejci fired a close-range effort but Rimando produced a great kick-save to keep the Czech’s off the scoreboard.
Aside from Tim Ream’s entrance at halftime, a five-minute span beginning in the 62nd minute saw USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann use the rest of his four remaining substitutes. Klinsmann handed debuts to left back Greg Garza and 18-year-old midfielder Emerson Hyndman, while also giving cameos to Brek Shea and Alfredo Morales.
The U.S. conceded the possession battle in the final 20 minutes, as the Czech Republic ramped up the pressure to find an equalizer. Rimando was up to the task however, bailing out his defense on a number of occasions, including two big saves in the final four minutes of the match.