International Friendly Preview: USMNT vs. Czech Republic
The United States begins its long march to Russia 2018. OTF’s Joe Maskivish takes a look at the upcoming friendly in Prague…
The unofficial beginning of the 2018 World Cup cycle begins for the United States on September 3rd in Prague. From now until Russia, every player is being rated and every minute counts. Though not as glamorous as a World Cup Qualifier or a Gold Cup game, this first friendly allows some of the “fringe” guys a chance to impress Klinsmann right out of the gate.
For anyone wanting Jurgen Klinsmann to give youth a chance, look no further than the roster he selected for the upcoming friendly against the Czech Republic (2:15pm ET; ESPN). While the primarily European-based squad possesses several players who suited up for the Stars and Stripes in Brazil, a handful of players are looking for their first cap.
The curious selection of the numbers at each position surely means some opportunity for many unfamiliar faces. Geoff Cameron’s call-up, despite injury, will leave a chance for someone to earn quality minutes on the back-line, as Cameron was a certain starter. This could spell a golden chance for Tim Ream or Michael Orozco.
Midfield is a curious bunch, as the group Klinsmann chose mostly lacks experience at this level, yet is not short on talent. Brek Shea seems to still be on the gaffer’s mind and he looks set to continue to give the much-maligned winger a shot to prove his worth. One has to believe Shea’s opportunities will not be as abundant this cycle, but should he show the skill Klinsmann wants to see and the maturity the rest of the world desires, he could be a name to watch.
The five-deep forward group, led by Jozy Altidore, could signify the possibility of two forwards in the starting XI. After sustaining a World Cup ending injury in the opening minutes against Ghana, Altidore will be eager to prove his American form. Altidore, coupled with one of a plethora of young forwards, could either be fun to watch or incredibly frustrating.
The Czech Republic should prove to be a formidable opponent, and this match is days before they open their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. A strictly European-based roster, sprinkled with a handful of Champions League players, playing at home will be a good test for the young, upstart Americans.
As has been the case in similar friendlies in the past, communication among a backline not accustomed to playing together is the key to success. If these guys can gel, and if someone takes charge of the midfield, the Yanks might have a fighting chance. If not, it could be a long 90 minutes and the evaluation process will have started on a sour note.
OTF’s Starting XI:
Follow @OTFSoccer for continuing USMNT coverage all the way to Russia 2018.
OTF’s Joe Maskivish is often found at @joemaskivish