Photos from the USA's 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic in Prague to open the 2018 FIFA World Cup cycle.
U.S. Men’s National Team forward Jozy Altidore has been itching to get back on the field for the past two-and-a-half months.
Altidore, who injured his hamstring in the opener of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is fully recovered heading into Wednesday’s international match against the Czech Republic in Prague.
“It feels great. I’m so excited to be back,” said Altidore, who leads the current USA roster with 71 caps and 23 goals. “I want to get on the field and help the guys put out a positive performance.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named Altidore the captain for Wednesday’s game. It represents the second time that Altidore will wear the armband. Altidore’s other international match as team captain was on Oct. 15, 2013, during the USA’s dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Panama to cap off the Hexagonal.
CHICAGO (March 17, 2014) – The U.S. Men’s National Team will travel to face the Czech Republic on Sept. 3 in Prague, marking the first match for the United States following the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Details for the first meeting between the teams on Czech soil will be announced at a later date.
“While we are focused on preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we must always look ahead and therefore we are thrilled to get this match against the Czech Republic,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Historically, they have a very good team, and they are going to be preparing for a huge challenge against the Netherlands in their opening game of qualifying for the European Championships, so we expect this to be a tough match and another good benchmark for our team.”
The United States will be seeking its first victory against the Czech Republic. The USA is 0-3-0 in the all-time series that began at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Czech Republic collected a 3-0 win in the opening group match. Most recently, the teams met in the Send-Off Series for South Africa as the U.S. fell 4-2 on May 25, 2010, in East Hartford, Conn.
The Czech Republic has reached the World Cup finals on nine occasions, twice advancing to the championship final. Backstopped by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech and led by team captain and Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky, the Czech Republic finished in third place in its qualifying group for Brazil behind Italy and Denmark. The Czech Republic been drawn into a challenging Group A in qualifying for the 2016 European Championship and opens the campaign on Sept. 9 at home against the Netherlands.
The MNT will continue its long rivalry against Mexico when the teams square off April 2 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (TICKETS). Kickoff for USA-Mexico, presented by AT&T, is set for 8 p.m. Arizona Time (11 p.m. ET), and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas and ESPN Deportes Radio. Fans can also follow the match live on Twitter @ussoccer.
Like many of his teammates on the U.S. Men’s National Team, Alfredo Morales had eligibility to represent more than one country.
Born in Berlin to a German mother (Ruth) and Peruvian father (Galo), who gained American citizenship through his service in the U.S. Army, Morales chose to play for the United States in 2013.
Two years later, things have come full circle with his international career.
In June, Morales appeared as a substitute in the MNT’s 2-1 win against Germany in Cologne. Just over a month later, he was officially cap-tied to the United States after playing in the team’s 1-1 draw with Panama during the Gold Cup group stage.
On Friday, Morales will have the opportunity to face the nation of his father’s birth as the MNT faces Peru for the first time in 15 years.
“Obviously it’s a very special game for me,” Morales told ussoccer.com. “My dad is from Peru and my whole family is Peruvian. Most of them live in the U.S., but it’s very special to me. I’m very excited and I want to beat them on Friday. It’s a big thing.”
Many of Morales’ uncles, aunts and cousins that live Stateside are based in Virginia. While he’s acquainted with them, it’s been 12 or 13 years since he’s seen his extended family, which makes Friday’s match at RFK Stadium even more special for the 25-year-old midfielder. Although he’s not quite sure which side they’ll be cheering for.
“I think I need about 15-20 tickets for the game,” he joked. “I hope they’re supporting me, but I think they just want to see a good game. They live in the U.S. and they’re very happy to be here. Of course they’re Peruvians, but I think they just want to enjoy the game and I hope they want to see me win.”
Along with seeing his extended family, Morales will also have the support of his father, who is flying in from Berlin on Thursday. Galo Morales kept Alfredo and his sister Rosa culturally connected to the nation of his birth, often cooking traditional Peruvian dishes of fish, beans and rice at the family’s home in Berlin.
“For him it’s also a very special game,” said Morales. “It’s a very big game for me and my family, but I think he’s just proud he can be in the stadium and watch a USA vs. Peru game with his son playing. It’s very special, and I hope I can do a good job and make everyone happy.”
While he takes pride in keeping his son connected to Peru, as a former U.S. serviceman, his father understood Alfredo’s ultimate desire to represent the United States.
“He’s very proud,” Morales said of his father. “He was very happy for me. From the beginning he said it was the right decision, and I think it’s the right decision for me. The USA is a great country and I’m very proud to play here. For me it’s the right thing.”
As Men’s National Team camp convened Sunday in Washington, D.C., U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called for all players to “prove a point” that they belonged on the roster that will face Mexico in next month’s CONCACAF Cup.
With Clint Dempsey absent from the first part of the international window – he scored seven goals in the 2015 Gold Cup - the opportunity is even greater at the striker position where Klinsmann has summoned five players all aged 25 years or younger. Heading into this camp, Klinsmann said “so far, nobody has a real big advantage over another guy.”
With 83 caps and two World Cups under his belt, Altidore isn’t just the most experienced of the current forward crop, but also one of the most seasoned international players on the team. While the veteran striker departed the team following the Gold Cup group stage, he’s returned to the side after scoring three goals in his last two matches for Toronto FC.
“It’s nice to come back into camp with some goals,” Altidore said. “You put the work in. You have to train to get back to how you were and get your fitness back. I’m feeling better and excited to have the chance to come back into camp and hopefully I can get on the field and make a difference.”
With the match against Mexico looming on Oct. 10 and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying kicking off the following month, Klinsmann has said it’s crucial for the next generation of forwards to step and claim their place.
“There's a time period to break in and make yourself comfortable and be a part of a group, but there's also a time to understand the moment to step up and build your future in the team,” he continued. “Now after a year that we called a transition year where we developed young forwards like an Aron Johannsson and a Bobby Wood and obviously some others, we are eager to see the next generation of forwards becoming consistent. By that I mean first of all scoring goals.”
Senior Men's National Team debutante Andrew Wooten has his eyes set on his first full international appearance with the USA.
Johannsson and Wood are joined in camp by two familiar faces in Altidore and Gyasi Zardes, as well as newcomer Andrew Wooten. The debutant 25-year-old earned his first National Team call by starting off the 2.Bundesliga campaign with five goals in five matches for Sandhausen.
“I always dreamed of playing one time in the Men’s National Team,” Wooten told ussoccer.com. “I’ve worked really hard in my club and I’m very happy now to be called up for my first time. Hopefully I can put on some good performances to stay here and play maybe in the next camp and next games.”
The striker with the best goal scoring form coming into camp, Wooten has already provided a new spark to the competition up top according to Johannsson.
“It’s always difficult to get on the field for the full team, especially now with a new face coming into the camp who is going to try and get some minutes,” the newly minted Werder Bremen striker said.
“It’s the National Team. Every time you come to camp, it’s going to be difficult to get in the starting 11. We have good players. Jozy is obviously the most experienced, and so it’s going to be interesting to see who he plays. On the other hand it’s nice as well because we have some good competition and everybody is fighting every training to prove to the coach they should be playing.”
Bobby Wood unleashes a shot during MNT training in the lead up to the team's Sept. 4 friendly against Peru.
Few players in world soccer can say their first two international goals came against the Netherlands and Germany, and even less can say they were game winners. Bobby Wood can.
After two magnificent strikes at the beginning of the summer, the 22-year-old was given time off during the Gold Cup to work on establishing himself at his new 2.Bundesliga side, Union Berlin.
With his club situation clarified, Wood will hope games against Peru and Brazil help him build off his early summer performances and earn another roster spot for the team that faces Mexico next month.
“These are two awesome games in the U.S. and I’m just going to take advantage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much time I get, whatever it is I’m going to do my all to prove that I want to be here. We’ll see what’s up from there.”
Despite the hefty international experience he holds over his fellow forward counterparts, Altidore has embraced the open competition Klinsmann has put in place.
“The competition is lovely,” he said. “It’s part of being at this level with the National Team, and it’s something we all have to acknowledge. It’s part of the job. It’s been part of the job for my whole career.”