By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team started off the new World Cup cycle with a road win on European soil on Wednesday, and with the victory came plenty of revelations about this young group of Americans.
The U.S. defeated the Czech Republic, 1-0, in Prague in the team’s first post-World Cup friendly courtesy of an Alejandro Bedoya goal, but the manner in which Jurgen Klinsmann’s side performed was equally as noteworthy as the final result. Yes, the Americans needed goalkeeping heroics from Nick Rimando in the second half to maintain their lead, but still showed plenty of positive signs from the run of play throughout the 90 minutes.
A number of youngsters and fringe players also made their U.S. cases to Klinsmann. Some stood out brightly while others showed they still need more work, giving Klinsmann plenty to consider as he moves forward with the team ahead of next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Here are five observations we took away from the national team’s 1-0 triumph over the Czech Republic:
GYAU SHOWS PROMISE, NATURAL-BORN CONFIDENCE
As Joe Gyau shone brightly throughout much of the first half of his international debut, it was easy to forget that he is still just a 21-year-old winger who does not have that many career first-division club appearances to his name. That’s because the speedy Gyau was not overwhelmed by the occasion – as is often the case when a player receives his first cap – and showed off his natural-born confidence by taking on defenders on the dribble before fading in the second half. Gyau has lots to work on to round out his game and his projected lack of first-team playing time at Borussia Dortmund is not ideal. But he demonstrated that he has plenty of promise and is a player worth another look in the not too distant future.
ALTIDORE STARVED OF SERVICE AGAIN IN LONE STRIKER ROLE
Serving as the U.S. captain, Jozy Altidore worked his tail off yet again but did not see much of the ball in dangerous positions. The service simply wasn’t there for Altidore to be at his most dangerous, begging the question as to if the lone striker system Klinsmann continues to deploy is best utilizing the veteran forward. Altidore has shown he is capable of scoring goals when he receives a steady dose of service, but when he doesn’t he’s stuck with just having to hold the ball up and work hard.
DON’T PENCIL IN GUZAN AS NO. 1 JUST YET
When Tim Howard announced his one-year break from the U.S., the consensus among most fans not from Salt Lake City, Utah was that Brad Guzan would wind up winning the starting goalkeeping spot. Nick Rimando, however, showed that the battle might come down to the wire. The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper was arguably the top American performer against the Czechs, making a number of key saves during his second-half cameo to prevent the U.S. from conceding an equalizer and show he is capable of being a No. 1 goalkeeper at the international level. Brad Guzan, to be fair, was not tested anywhere near as much in his 45 minutes to showcase his skills, but it appears this competition is far from a formality.
BROOKS, DISKERUD DEVELOPING WELL
Two of the younger players who really showed that they are coming along well in their development were John Brooks and Mix Diskerud.
Brooks was mostly lights out defensively and looked mature beyond his years in his first U.S. match since scoring the dramatic winner vs. Ghana in the World Cup opener. The 21-year-old centerback read the game well, came up with several key clearances and also looked plenty calm and composed on the ball, especially on one occasion when he dribbled out of a tight space.
Diskerud, meanwhile, struggled in the U.S.’s ineffective midfield trio at first before showing that he is capable of making an impact by dropping deeper. Diskerud, 23, was active in the latter parts of the first half and during his brief minutes in the second stanza, serving as a link between the back four and attack. He hit a sublime cross-field ball to Timmy Chandler in the first half that went to waste, and showed impressive alertness when he pounced on the loose ball that helped create the Americans’ winner.
PRESSING GAME SHOWED IMPROVEMENTS
The U.S. was a bit sloppy in possession early on, but where Klinsmann side really stood out was in their ability to press high and suffocate the Czechs. The tactic resulted in several turnovers from the Czech Republic, which gave the Americans possession in more advanced positions. They struggled to get quality scoring chances out of that and also were exposed a bit on the counter, but the way in which the U.S. pressed was still a step in the right direction given that at the World Cup it sat too far deep far too often against talented opposition.
What did you think of Gyau’s performance? Is the lone striker role one that does not best suit Altidore? Like the way the U.S. high pressed?
Share your thoughts below.