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.
Leading up to the U.S. friendly against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Aug. 15, 2012, Michael Orozco told himself he wanted to make history.
“If I get five minutes or 90, I was going to give it my all,” he told ussoccer.com.
Orozco would get around 13 minutes, entering the match with the score locked 0-0 and around the time ESPN commentator Ian Darke mentioned that the U.S. would be pleased to get a draw out of the friendly fixture.
Stormy skies gather over Estadio Azteca ahead of the USMNT's first win on Mexican soil.
A result wouldn’t have been bad. It was something that had only occurred once before, coming in a 0-0 draw during 1997 World Cup Qualifying.
Shortly after Darke’s declaration, Brek Shea nutmegged a Mexican defender, got to the end line and centered for Terrence Boyd. A clever back heel from the U.S. forward put the ball on the doorstep for Orozco, who sneaked in to poke home some U.S. history.
The U.S. would play out the final 10 minutes and stoppage time to earn the 1-0 win, its first victory on Mexican soil in 25 tries (11 of which came at the vaunted Estadio Azteca).
Beyond the joys a U.S. win against Mexico brings or the chance to lift a trophy, the biggest prize in Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup match is claiming the region’s berth at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
Having morphed over the years from a four-team competition to one that moved around the world, since 2005 the Confederations Cup has found its home as a World Cup curtain raiser played the year before in the host nation. It has become an important piece of the international soccer calendar, with the nations that play in it getting a better all-around view towards the country they’re hoping to return to the following year.
“It’s a dry run for the World Cup,” said MNT captain Michael Bradley. “You get to spend time in the country a year before, you play in the stadiums, you stay in the hotels, you get a feel for what the weather is like and the way things work.”
Bradley’s experience came with the MNT at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, where the team’s mettle was put to the test after opening losses to Italy and Brazil. Looking like they’d head home early, the U.S. defeated Egypt 3-0 in their final group match and Brazil did the same to Italy; an unlikely combination of results that advanced the United States to the semifinals. From there, the team pulled off a stunning 2-0 upset against world No. 1-ranked and defending European champions Spain in the semifinal, and even went up 2-0 on Brazil before losing 3-2 in the final.
USMNT striker Clint Dempsey scores the opening goal against Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup final.
“The biggest thing about the Confederations Cup is the competition you get to play against,” said forward Jozy Altidore, who scored the game-winning goal against Spain. “Those teams you play against are usually the ones in the World Cup.”
“I think it gives you confidence,” said Dempsey, who scored in the semifinal and final. “You get used to the facilities, you get used to the environment, the atmosphere. We were able to advance from our group that year, and we were in a tough group.”
In fact, during the tournament’s three-week span, the MNT played five matches – four of which came against teams ranked in the Top 10 in the world – all in a competitive environment.
“Given the region we play in, the opportunity to play games against the best teams in the world typically only comes in the form of friendlies,” added Bradley. “Obviously they are important moments for us, but friendlies aren’t the same as real games. They’re not the same as tournament games where teams are trying to advance and win. For us, the chance to play in a mini-World Cup against the best teams in the world is a huge thing for us to keep pushing ourselves forward.”
Jozy Altidore and strike partner Charlie Davies celebrate Altidore's game winning goal against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinal.
Ultimately, 15 of the 23 players that were on the 2009 Confederations Cup roster were part of the 2010 World Cup team which won its group for the first time since 1930.
“In South Africa we arrived for the World Cup feeling like we had been there before and we knew what to expect,” added Bradley. “You can’t understate how important that feeling is.”