USA coach Bob Bradley saw his side beaten 4-2 by the Czech Republic and admitted he had some tough decisions to make as he sat down to select his final 23-man squad for next month's FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa.
The USA face group rivals England in their opening match of the tournament in Rustenberg on 12 June with Bradley set to name his squad six days earlier than FIFA's required 1 June deadline in order "to start the team-building process". He may wish he had given himself more room to manoeuver after a team missing many first-choice starters and filled with squad hopefuls for the most part failed their auditions against the Czechs in front of 36,218 fans at Rentschler Field in Connecticut.
"It's a night when you can only imagine the emotions players are going through, but we're at a point where tough decisions have to be made," Bradley said. "I have so many things flying through my head right now. I've already said live on TV that Gooch (Oguchi Onyewu) played 90 minutes when we subbed him in the 65th minute, so you can imagine where I'm at. At times it was a little bit crazy and I think in the process of trying to put so much into it we at times left ourselves wide open."
The USA had taken the lead in the 17th minute after Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu fired home a cross from Bolton's Stuart Holden that had been missed by Czech keeper Petr Cech. Defensive frailties allowed the visitors back into the game just before half time when Brad Guzan was caught out of position on a Jaroslav Plasil free-kick from the right, as centre-back Tomas Sivok rose above a static Onyewu to head home.
Bradley made five changes at half-time but could not shore up the defence sufficiently, and the Czechs went in front in the 58th minute through Jan Polak. American sub Hercules Gomez levelled seven minutes later before more shoddy defending allowed Martin Fenin to fire home from seven yards out. Tomas Necid fired home the Czrch's fourth goal in the 92nd minute.
The USA squad are set to visit President Obama in the White House on Thursday, the day after the final 23-man squad is named, before playing Turkey in Philadelphia on Saturday in their farewell game.