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Direct from Prague

Younger Generation Takes "Huge Step" Says Klinsmann

A U.S. national team lineup that included Joe Gyau, Julian Green, and Jonathan Brooks more than held its own against the Czech Republic, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann feels good about the win.

BY Jeffrey Donovan Posted
September 03, 2014
6:01 PM
PRAGUE—The United States, fielding an experimental lineup in its first match since the World Cup, survived a late scare to defeat the Czech Republic 1-0 on a first-half goal by Alejandro Bedoya, the team’s third victory in Europe under Jurgen Klinsmann.

Showing flashes of the “proactive” soccer so often talked about by their German coach, the Americans combined well through midfield in the first half as Bedoya, Joe Corona, and Mix Diskerud took turns pulling the strings. They got all they needed in the 39 minute thanks to fine work by Diskerud to win the ball at midfield and burst into the penalty area, his blocked shot falling to Bedoya for an easy finish.

With Joe Gyau impressing in his U.S. debut, the Americans looked to be in charge only for their shape to fall apart midway through the second half after six substitutions. Emerson Hyndman, the 18-year-old Fulham starlet, and left back Greg Garza of Tijuana also got their first caps as Alfredo Morales, Brek Shea, and Tim Ream got time as well.

“It wasn’t simple, I think the Czech team had their chances—especially in the last 20 minutes,” Klinsmann told a news conference after the match. “If one of these chances go in, then we can't complain.”

Nick Rimando, who took over at the half for Brad Guzan, stood tall to save from Radim Reznik in the 85th minute and salvage the win as the hosts pushed forward in their last warm-up before kicking off Euro 2016 qualification against the Netherlands next week. Under Klinsmann, America’s other wins on European soil came in Italy and Bosnia Herzegovina.

Tossing out his Brazil playbook, where he relied on the muscle and work rate of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, Klinsmann fielded a team without a midfield destroyer. It seemed to work as Corona, Bedoya, and Diskerud combined well to dictate the game—at least in the first half.

Klinsmann said he told the “technically gifted” Diskerud and Corona that they’re “wonderful players” but needed to “raise the bar in terms of aggressiveness. That’s their learning curve, and that’s what they did today—they stepped it up,” the coach said. “And then obviously once they are in possession of the ball, they can play it.”

After a chippy start, the Americans began to settle down as Gyau showed flashes of his pace on the right flank, where he combined well with Fabian Johnson. Julian Green, in his first U.S. start, also showed his chops, racing through the gut of the Czech midfield before laying off for Bedoya, whose cross nearly got to Jozy Altidore. Moments later, John Brooks, seeking more magic after scoring the winning goal over Ghana at the World Cup, surged from defense to fire wide from long range.

After Michael Orozco’s headed clearance foiled a Czech break in the 16th minute, the U.S. began to push on the pedal.

Gyau fired the first warning shot in the 18th. Three minutes later Green added his own effort. Gyau would immediately test Petr Cech again, beating his man on in the area before firing wide.

In a sign of things to come, Diskerud began imposing himself, stealing the ball and switching the field to Johnson, whose cross just missed connecting with Corona. Two minutes later, Gyau sped onto a lazy back pass, forcing Cech into a hasty clearance. Then, twice on the break, Gyau again threatened, but couldn’t get the cross off once and then over-hit a through ball to Altidore.

“He has speed, he has technique, he’s improvising, he’s taking people on, and if he loses the ball, he chases it,” Klinsmann said of Gyau, who recently left Hoffenheim to sign for German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, where he plays for the second team. “He will only get better.”

Pushed forward, the Americans looked vulnerable on a couple of breaks. Guzan had to clean up in the 35th minute after the omnipresent Bedoya stepped in to get a foot on Vaclav Pilar’s shot from outside the area. When Orozco flubbed a header to give the Czechs a corner kick in the 36th minute, it looked for a moment that the tide could turn.

It didn’t happen. Looking confident, the 19-year-old Green showed nifty footwork and an explosive first step on the left flank, forcing Cech to palm his cross over the bar. Moments later, Bedoya slammed home Diskerud’s rebound for a rare winner on European soil.

Klinsmann, much derided in some quarters for allegedly failing to live up to his mantra of seeking to impose a “proactive” style of soccer on the United States, said his team is making progress as it seeks to gradually shift to a more attack-oriented game.

“The transition I think that we talked about the last couple of days with the players—to move the whole thing forward, to play the ball out of the back, to find ways through midfield and not banging the ball long to Jozy and then hoping for the best—it’s getting there,” he said.

“I think it was a huge step with that younger generation of players," the coach concluded. “They didn’t get nervous and they were high pressured by the Czech team, and they still moved the ball.”

What did you think of the match? Share your thoughts below.

Jeffrey Donovan is an ASN contributor and a veteran journalist based in Prague, Czech Republic. Follow him on Twitter.

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