Alejandro Bedoya scored in the 39th minute, and a youthful U.S. soccer team started the four-year cycle of preparation for the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in Prague on Wednesday night.
Three players made their U.S. debuts, with 21-year-old forward Joe Gyau playing the entire match, 23-year-old defender Greg Garza entering in the 63rd and 18-year-old midfielder Emerson Hyndman coming in four minutes later. Hyndman, a grandson of former FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman, made his debut last month with Fulham in England’s second tier.
Tim Ream, a 26-year-old defender who failed to make this year’s World Cup roster, entered at the start of the second half, his first national team match since October 2011. Brad Guzan played the first half as he took over as the Americans’ No. 1 goalkeeper from Tim Howard, who is taking a year off from the national team. Guzan, who turns 30 on Sept. 9, was the oldest player in the U.S. starting lineup.
The only U.S. player over 30 was 35-year-old goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who made several excellent saves in the second half, including a leg stop of Daniel Punil’s point-blank shot in the 89th.
The U.S. was coming off its first consecutive appearances in the World Cup’s knockout rounds; the Americans were eliminated with a 2-1 overtime loss to Belgium in the round of 16 on July 1.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann started just two players who began the match against Belgium: Bedoya and right back Fabian Johnson. Forward Jozy Altidore made his first U.S. appearance since injuring a hamstring as the Americans opened the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ghana. Altidore captained the Americans for only the second time.
Klinsmann told NBC Sports before the game his goal was to make the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup — a round the Americans last reached at the first tournament in 1930.
“Once you get out of the most difficult group in the World Cup, you should go further than just (the) round of 16,” he said. “This is our goal going towards Russia, not to stop at the round of 16, maybe not to stop at the quarterfinal, to say clearly, listen: We have four years to prepare this cycle. Our goal is going into a semifinal in a World Cup. And that means a lot of work, a lot of competition, a lot of grind.”
The U.S. went ahead when goalkeeper Petr Cech, dropped from Chelsea’s starting lineup by manager Jose Mourinho, sent the ball upfield to Vladimir Darida. Mix Diskerud stripped the midfielder and dribbled right back at Cech. The goalkeeper made a diving stop, and the ball ricocheted to Bedoya, who scored on a left-footed shot for his second goal in 33 international appearances.
Notes: D Geoff Cameron missed the game because of an abdominal strain sustained while playing for Stoke against Portsmouth in the English League Cup on Aug. 27. … MF Julian Green was loaned Monday from Bayern Munich to Hamburg for the season. … Plans for a U.S. exhibition against Colombia at San Antonio next Tuesday fell through. … The Americans resume with games against Ecuador on Oct. 10 at East Hartford, Connecticut, and against Honduras four days later at Boca, Raton, Florida. They also play Ireland on Nov. 18 at Dublin. … Altidore also captained the U.S. last Oct. 15 in a World Cup qualifier against Panama. … The Czechs open European Championship qualifying Tuesday at home against the Netherlands.