The United States were beaten 4-2 in a pre-2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ friendly on Thursday evening in East Hartford, Connecticut.
American coach Bob Bradley left out the likes of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Jozy Altidore, opting instead to run the rule over his fringe players on the eve of trimming his side to a final 23 squad members. "We learned some things tonight," said coach Bradley after the match. "Obviously we're not happy with the score, but we'll keep working now."
After watching from the bench, Fulham forward Clint Dempsey had a similarly patient attitude. "This was a chance for some other guys to get a run out and now we're one step closer to the real thing," he said.
The Americans asked all the questions in the first quarter-hour, moving the ball well up the flanks. Left-sided Glasgow Rangers winger DaMarcus Beasley looked to be back at his best after an extended loss of form for both club and country, drawing a foul in a dangerous position in the 18th minute. The resulting free-kick was whipped in by the right foot of Stuart Holden, misplayed uncharacteristically by Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech and banged home from close range by Maurice Edu, Beasley’s teammate at Rangers and back with a bang from a long injury lay-off.
The Czechs were spurred into response and on 26 minutes Martin Fenin had a golden chance from an acute angle inside the US penalty area. But the former youth standout could only hit woefully wide of the post, failing to test USA keeper Brad Guzan, who was standing in for usual No1 Howard.
The Czechs managed to haul themselves back into the game one minute before the break. Jaroslav Plasil lofted a free-kick from the right into the US area and Tomas Sivok managed to leap over towering defender Oguchi Onyewu – sluggish since being out for seven months after a torn knee ligament – to nod inside the back post and even the score.
USA boss Bradley brought in five new players after the break, and all the changes seemed to have a negative influence on the home side at the outset. David Lafata looked to have nodded the Czechs into the lead in the 56th minute after an American defensive mix-up, but the diving header was called back for offside. They repeated the dose just three minutes later, and this time the goal stood to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage. Some good work up the left side saw Lafata cross dangerously, and Jan Polak was on the spot to slide the ball past Guzan from close in.
New man Herculez Gomez had a chance to equalise for the Americans from the edge of the area after a lovely back-heel from Brian Ching, but his shot was well smothered by Cech in the 63rd minute. He had another chance from the resulting corner kick, though, and this time he made no mistake. Holden’s set-piece was nodded back across goal by Clarence Goodson and the Pachuca man headed simply into the open net to make it 2-2.
The celebrations were short-lived as the Czechs grabbed a winner in the 77th minute. After a nice piece of approach work up the right side, Fenin snuck into the box unmarked and drilled a finish into the roof of the net. Tomas Necid added a fourth for the Czechs in stoppage time to seal a comforting 4-2 waltz.
The USA will meet fancied England in their South Africa 2010 Group C opener in Rustenburg on 12 June, followed by games with Slovenia and Algeria in what is considered by many to be a manageable section. Their next warm-up match will be played on 29 May, when they will hope to rebound against Turkey in Philadelphia.