With the USA back in action on Wednesday against the Czech Republic (Watch live on NBCSN, 2:15 p.m. ET and online here) there is plenty to look forward to as the cycle towards the 2018 World Cup begins.
[RELATED: Preview – USA vs. Czech Rep.]
This match is the USA’s first game since the 2014 World Cup, where the U.S. made it out of the “Group of the Death” but went out in the round of 16 after a 2-1 defeat to Belgium.
[WATCH: USA vs. Czech Rep., live on NBCSN]
Plenty of players from this summer are missing, as 15 of Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad after under the age of 24. He is giving youth a chance to shine in the ‘city of spires’ on Wednesday.
Here are five things to look forward to ahead of the match in Prague.
New kids on the block
College kids. Teenagers. Debutants. Klinsmann has selected them all and plans to give them a chance against the Czechs. From Jordan Morris, a Sophomore at Stanford University, to Emerson Hyndman, a teenager for Fulham in England, American fans have a whole host of players to see for the first time. Here’s our in-depth look at the new guys.
Altidore’s role as a leader
On Tuesday U.S. boss Klinsmann confirmed that Jozy Altidore would be his captain in the absence of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and other veterans. Altidore, 24, is still young but seems to have been around for a while. Klinsmann believes in him and the Sunderland man has been given a huge amount of responsibility at such a young age. After seeing his World Cup cut short due to injury, Altidore is looking to make up for lost time in the Stars and Stripes. Now, he’s the skipper.
Can Guzan step up
In the absence of Tim Howard, who is taking a one-year sabbatical away from the U.S. national team, Aston Villa ‘keeper and long-time U.S. backup Brad Guzan finally has a chance to stake his claim to be the regular incumbent between the posts. Guzan and Nick Rimando will each get 45 minutes to impress in Prague, but many feel it’s Guzan’s job to lose for the foreseeable future.
Last chance saloon?
This may seem crazy to be saying this, but with a host of talented youngsters already playing in the Eredivisie, Bundelisga and England being called into this squad, could this be a last chance for some more experienced guys to shine? Bolton’s Tim Ream got a call up and could be in that boat, while Brek Shea’s situation at Stoke City (no games this season and no loan deal lined up) seems to be dire. How many more chances will those two get to play for the USA? Their talent is undoubted but the young guns are breathing down their necks.
Yanks on European soil
Okay, this last point is more of a rallying call. The USA have fared pretty well on foreign soil in recent years. A 1-0 win away in Italy, a 4-3 win in Bosnia, 0-0 draw vs. Scotland and a few narrow losses thrown in here and there to Belgium, France and Austria… not bad. It is always fun to see the U.S. head over to Europe and compete against teams from ‘soccer’s homeland’ and do battle behind enemy lines. This game in Prague will be no different.