Joe Gyau

Joe Gyau
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Joe Gyau on life at Hoffenheim, Dortmund, the USMNT, and FC Cincinnati

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FC Cincinnati winger Joe Gyau has packed so much into the first 27 years of his life that his career resembles that of a man 10 years his age.

Gyau made his first team debut for Hoffenheim at 19 alongside a 20-year-old Roberto Firmino. His full USMNT debut came three weeks before his Borussia Dortmund debut, when Jurgen Klopp subbed him on for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 27 predictions and preview ]

He tore his meniscus weeks later in his second cap for Jurgen Klinsmann, and battled two years to get back onto the field. Gyau went to the 3.Liga then back to 2.Bundesliga before relegation saw him make a move back home to Major League Soccer.

What we’re saying is it takes a lot to surprise him. The match that sealed Duisburg’s relegation to 3.Liga last season did just that.

So begins our conversation with Gyau.

ProSoccerTalk: A little background for the reader. You and I connected because I was headed to Germany with a soccer team and we had tickets for the Duisburg-Heidenheim match. I thought it would be neat for them to meet an American who’d made it to the top level and you were cool enough to agree to it, even inviting us to training.

This was months beforehand, and Duisburg was unbeaten in four matches. By the time we got to Germany, losing the match would’ve meant relegation. It was a sensational game, but Duisburg lost 4-3 and we witnessed an incredibly intense ending where fans were screaming across the pitch at players, beating sticks against the barriers that kept them from getting onto the field.

Understandably we didn’t meet. What was that like?

Joe Gyau: “Being in a relegation battle is one of the most pressured, anxious feelings that you have. You know that week-in week-out, for the well being of the club you’ve gotta get some points. Going into that game, we had won against Holstein Kiel 2-0 away. We knew if we won, we still had a chance. We left it all out there. Obviously the fans are heated. We had to go there to show them appreciation for supporting us. We had to show face out of respect. But that situation being in the 2.Bundesliga or Bundesliga is bragging rights for the city. The people felt like we let them down. They let us know that. They were screaming. They were mad. Some of the players felt attacked and they lashed out at the fans. It got really hectic.”

PST: That’s the point where, honestly, I was worried. The supporters were still packed in there, chanting in the players’ direction. A few fans hopped over the barrier and the ones in the stands were shaking the poles that hold up the protective netting (around the 4:20 mark of this video). What are you thinking at that point?

Gyau: “When I was walking over, I knew they were pissed. You know they’re really passionate about everything. For some people the club is their life, you know? They go to the stadium every weekend. And they felt like us getting relegated was them losing a big chunk of themselves. Walking over there, I recognized some of the fans from our training ground to watch practice. It’s funny how nice they were at the training ground compared to the cuss words then. I wouldn’t say I was scared, but it was shocking to see how enraged they were. Then in the locker room, it was just dead silent. Everybody’s got their heads down. The president, the coach, the general manager, they’re in the locker room and everybody’s quiet.”

PST: Duisburg has been the class of 3.Liga this year and looks to be getting promoted straightaway. Have you been pulling for them? And do you generally root for your former clubs?

Gyau: “(With Duisburg) There’s no bitterness at all. They had a great season this season. I still have friends that play there and we still talk. To see them get back in there is bittersweet with what happened in Copa 19, but that’s good for them. In Hamburg (on loan to FC St. Pauli). I met lifelong friends. At Dortmund I had the best moments of my career, and I was at Hoffenheim for four years. You could say that’s where I grew up. Germany is my second home. My wife’s from there.”

PST: Knowing that, and with an experienced career and name over there, why did you decide to come back to the United States and FC Cincinnati?

Gyau: “After being away for so long, my late teenage years and most of my 20s, I just wanted to switch things up and give my people over here a chance to see me a little bit closer (Gyau was born in Florida and grew up in Maryland). I was also at a good enough age that I could transfer markets.”

PST: I’m always impressed by the guys who come off a European season and then jump right into an MLS stretch run. I know there was a little break between 2.Bundesliga and your August debut, but what were your first impressions?

Gyau: “It was a short break because that summer I was with the national team. I typically keep myself in pretty good shape but getting right back into games I definitely needed a week or two. It was definitely a different style of play. It was a more open game, a little less tactical than I was used to in the Bundesliga. There was more space and I kinda liked that. There’s a lot of Central and South Americans as opposed to a lot more of a European-based pool.”

PST: I’m glad you brought up the call-up. After dozens of youth national team appearances, we saw you make your USMNT debut for Jurgen Klinsmann in impressive fashion versus the Czech Republic 2014, then suffer an awful knee injury in your second cap. There were multiple surgeries and grueling rehab. Then you get back into the fold with Gregg Berhalter against Jamaica in 2019.

Gyau: “It was a great moment, just getting that call. It kind of put the cherry on top of everything because that was one of my main goals after my injury was to get back to where I was. The two years, that whole process of rehab, was an unforgiving process. Getting that cap was the reward and it was great to revel in the moment. The game was in DC where I’m from and my whole family was able to come.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

PST: Let’s go back to the start. You signed for Hoffenheim at age 17. Your father and grandfather were both professional players, so you had some advice and expertise to lean on. What made you choose Hoffenheim?

Gyau with Ryan Babel and Sandro Wieser at Hoffenheim (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images).

Gyau: “Germany was the first league that gave me a really concrete offer. I had gone and tried out at Chelsea before, but I was like 13 and my whole family would’ve had to relocate. Hoffenheim came at the right time. I was 17, able to be on my own, and I always wanted to play in Europe.”

PST: Hoffenheim was a loaded side, even simply by ‘Americans abroad’ standards. You subbed on for Fabian Johnson for your first appearance and Danny Williams was on the pitch at center midfielder. You’ve played with and against a lot of stars. Who stands out the most in terms of the wow factor.

Gyau: “When I was at Hoffenheim. Ryan Babel was an absolute monster when he was just coming off his time at Liverpool. And then I got to play with Firmino when he first came from Brazil. You could see his raw talent and as it became more refined where the flicks and tricks started working in the game. Aubameyang at Dortmund was a monster. Mkhitaryan as well, I was there for one of his best seasons. And for the national team, just being able to link up with Jozy Altidore was a great thing.”

PST: What makes those players so special? Everyone at that level is good, but what makes those players pop?

Gyau: “It’s about work ethic, confidence, and positive reinforcement. I’ve come across lots of players who have equal amounts of talent but maybe the situation with the coach isn’t great. The coach was behind Firmino 100 percent, at Dortmund the same for Aubameyang. You could see it.

“When (Aubameyang) first came to Dortmund he was playing on the wing cause Lewandowski was still there. He was still scoring and doing his thing, but it wasn’t what you see now. After Lewandowski left, that’s right when I came. They put him up top. Marco Reus would be behind him or Mkhitaryan and that’s when most of the plays would end up around him and he was always a natural finisher. He came into his own, and Jurgen Klopp always gave him the positive reinforcement to be able to excel. The guys always had it, but the reps and the experience pushed them to the next level.”

Joe Gyau
Gyau (right) with Ciro Immobile and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Photo by Team 2 Sportphoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

PST: Surely you’re tired of being asked about Klopp, but we all hear the Liverpool players raving about him. Does that match with your experience with him at Dortmund?

Gyau: “Man, just getting to know the guy, that’s the player’s ideal coach. For me, I was working with him and (now Schalke boss) David Wagner. Both of them were personable guys. They took me under their wing. They give you free reign. They still had their system but they let players express themselves. They let you work the way you work within their system. If you work hard, they are always going to be behind them. It’s one of those things where you go out on the field and you want to give 100 percent because you see how genuine they are and Klopp was really genuine.

“I remember when I got my first cap against Czech Republic, Klopp called everybody in the locker room and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got young player Joseph here, he made his international debut and had a great game.’ Everybody gave me a round of applause.

“After I got hurt he called me into his office. He knew that I was devastated and he said, ‘Hey I know the doctor didn’t give you good news but just know I’m behind you 100 percent. Whenever you come back I’ll be waiting for you. We’ll be ready. It was comforting because a coach doesn’t have to say that, especially to a young guy coming up. You don’t have to take him into your office and give him any type of reassurance but he took his time to do that.”

PST: You’ve also spent time in recent years with Sonnenhof Großaspach in 3.Liga and on loan from Hoffenheim a while back with FC St. Pauli. The latter is known for being a different kind of club. What do you recall from then?

Gyau: “Probably one of the best times I had in my career. Hamburg as a city is great but the club, the people, the stadium, the fans, they have their own progressive views. The support that you get game-in and game-out. The history behind it. You have St. Pauli and then HSV. The city is split in half and if you’re on that St. Pauli side, they love you. I’m 19, 20 at the time playing at the Millerntor. No matter you’re winning or losing the fans are cheering you on and positive.

“Not every club has that type of tradition that atmosphere. I remember there were times during the season where there was an amusement park outside the stadium. The Hamburger Dome. We’d be playing a game and before the game there was a roller coaster and people are going crazy. Then they come in for the game and afterwards the amusement park is rocking again. Then you have the Reeperbahn, and the restaurants. It’s just a buzzing city.”

Joe Gyau
(Photo by Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/GettyImages)

PST: Wrapping up, FC Cincinnati has a year under its belts and you had a full offseason plus additions of Siem de Jong, Yuya Kubo, and Jurgen Locadia. How are you feeling the club will look once it’s back to playing soccer?

Edit: FCC announced the hiring of Jaap Stam a day after this conversation.

Gyau: “We definitely have a real talented team this year and we’ve been given a chance to mold together. We had a couple late transfers. We’re not able to train full team yet but everyone’s able to grasp the philosophy behind the club all at once. Playing with Locadia, that dude can strike it with both feet, he’s mobile. We have a good group of guys, a good balance. I’m excited to get back when things get back rolling. And the fans here are also crazy. Our last game against Orlando, or when we played against Columbus, it’s 20,000 fans every game. It’s good to jump from getting a lot of fans in Germany right into the same atmosphere.”

PST: What’s the biggest difference you’ve noted since you’ve arrived in MLS?

Gyau: “In Germany it’s more strict. The fans really critique things so much harder than they do over here. The fans here are hoping to see a good game and ready to have fun. You would never see what happened in Duisburg happen over here. You wouldn’t see fans spitting on people, and it’s totally different style of play. They make the field so compact in Germany.”

US players react to Jurgen Klinsmann’s firing

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With Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as United States head coach coming to an end, a number of players made their thoughts known on social media in the immediate aftermath of the news.

It’s clear that, while some are happy about the news, many others were given a chance under the German, and others just hurt to see a man lose his job.

[ MORE: Bruce Arena likely to succeed Klinsmann ]

First up was Landon Donovan, who retired last year but made a comeback with Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy this season. Landon was famously left off the USMNT roster for the 2014 World Cup by Klinsmann, but now with Arena expected to take over as U.S. manager, could Landon make a comeback on a national level? He offered his thoughts on the news.

While Landon stayed professional, others didn’t hide their true feelings. Benny Feilhaber, who has been infamously shoved aside in the national picture by Klinsmann, made it clear how he felt about the decision.

Ruthless. Feilhaber has 41 U.S. caps, although he was last a regular in 2010, featuring only twice since, and not since 2013.

25-year-old Greg Garza, currently with Liga MX club Tijuana, gave thanks to Klinsmann for handing the Texas product his debut cap back in September of 2014.

Garza has nine caps, all coming under Klinsmann.

Finally, Bundesliga lifer Joe Gyau who has two USMNT caps, showed appreciation for Klinsmann, who supported Gyau through a rocky period. After Gyau suffered a knee injury in 2014, Klinsmann was there to support him and help him heal.

As the news only came down a few hours ago, there are sure to be others who come forward with public opinions.

With club season open, PST assesses the Top 15 USMNT prospects under 23

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Friday brings us the beginning of the Bundesliga season, meaning every major league will have started its season.

There are American players throughout Europe worth watching, many of them well-established with their clubs. We know plenty of Danny Williams at Reading, of Fabian Johnson at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Geoff Cameron at Stoke City.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

But what about the young crowd, the ones we know a bit less about? Let’s call the group Americans under the age of 23, with 10 caps or less. We quizzed our ProSoccerTalk staff, weighted the rankings according to power, and wound up with 15 names from MLS to the PL.

Players were given one point for each mention, and a corresponding value to whether they were ranked first (10 points) or tenth (1 point) by a given writer.

PST’s Top 15 USMNT prospects

15. Joe Gyau, Borussia Dortmund (1)

The 23-year-old was about as exciting a prospect as any when he tore his meniscus against Ecuador. Now, he’s just getting back on the pitch and a loan may be on the cards.

14. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (3)

Of players aged 23 or younger, only one has had a better overall season than Trapp. The 23-year-old just fits on our list, and needs to find another level, but he’s going to be solid at worst.

13. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas (4)

The seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the big Georgian has been outstanding this season.

12. Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC/Porto B (5)

It’s easy to forget about EPB, the 6-foot-1 center back who left SKC on loan in February, but he’s gone 90 minutes in every match since making his Porto B debut in March. Juventus bid $1 million for Palmer-Brown when he was still 16, and they know a thing or two about scouting kids.

11. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht (6)

The 20-year-old started Utrecht’s first two matches of the season as a center forward after foot surgery cost him much of 2015-16. No one should ignore his 3 goal, 6 assist season the previous season.

10. Keegan Rosenberry, Philadelphia Union (9)

The very likely MLS Rookie of the Year has been a dynamite part of Philadelphia’s resurgent season.

Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk
Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk

9. Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth (12)

The 20-year-old just moved to the Premier League, and has yet to debut after playing out his contract with Fulham in hopes of greener pastures.

8. Matt Miazga, Chelsea (20)

One decent match followed by a bad half; That’s all we’ve seen from Miazga since leaving the New York Red Bulls for Chelsea last January. A loan seems likely.

7. Ethan Horvath, Molde (22)

The 20-year-old is a full-time ‘keeper with Europa League experience. He should get his chance to impress at the USMNT level, sooner rather than later.

6. Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal (27)

Still hoping for an Arsenal breakthrough, the 19-year-old made 28 appearances on loan for Rangers last season.

5. Lynden Gooch, Sunderland (33)

Gooch drew raves for his work with the Black Cats U-21 team, and has earned playing time under new manager David Moyes. One to watch, and contracted at the Stadium of Light through 2018-19.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

4. Julian Green, Bayern Munich (37)

With a new lease on life under Carlo Ancelotti, could be set for a breakthrough season.

3. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (41)

There’s a lot of hope for the striker, who is getting the professional refinement he needs at the MLS level. If he sorts out his left foot, he could be a lethal piece of the USMNT future.

2. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur (44)

A year ago, he told Joe Prince-Wright that he had added confidence from captaining Spurs’ U-21 side. He’s staying with Mauricio Pochettino‘s First Team this season, and spent the first two matches as an unused sub.

1. Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (55)

We don’t have to really say anything, do we? The 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid has made an impact at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and could be set for a loan now that BVB has added Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Ousmane Dembele.

Klinsmann talks USMNT player form, laments Gyau, Boyd, Gatt injuries

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As we wait for Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster call-ups for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala, the USMNT boss has given us a few names — albeit mostly obvious ones — in an interview on USSoccer.com.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Klinsmann says injured striker Jozy Altidore is coming with the team, while implying that usual obvious choices Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and John Brooks will join red-hot Bobby Wood on the squad.

He also mentions players we haven’t seen in a while — or at all — as on his radar despite long-term injuries.

From USSoccer.com:

“We have players that are injured a bit longer than we thought. We feel for them, but we are also waiting for them, players like Terrence Boyd, like Joe Gyau, like Josh Gatt, or even Aron Johannsson out for a couple months. These players are not forgotten. They play a wider role in building our group, our core, for 2018 in Russia. So hopefully they get back on track as quickly as possible. But in the short run, like a hamstring with Jozy, we will manage it, we will make the best out of it, but it has an effect on the roster. There’s no doubt about it.”

To be fair to Klinsmann, that’s a good portion of an entire generation of potentially-impactful U.S. attackers there. Molde winger Gatt is back running after a third knee surgery in September, while the promising Gyau hasn’t played for the U.S. since tearing a meniscus against Ecuador in October 2014. Boyd had a small setback in his recovery when he had a cyst removed from his knee last month.

Wins in both matches will assure the States a spot in the Hex, which begins in November and will include six CONCACAF sides battling for three automatic berths in the 2018 World Cup (plus one inter-continental playoff berth versus Asia’s fifth-place side).

[ MORE: Fellaini defends himself against “thug” label ]

The U.S. is level on points with Trinidad and Tobago but leading on goal differential after a win against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and a draw with T&T. Those latter two will play twice in the same window, and T&T will be expected to win both.

The States beat and drew Guatemala in the third round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, but needed to sweat out the round after entering the final match day with advancement in question. Klinsmann knows the challenge ahead in Guatemala City (March 25) before the home leg in Columbus four days later.

Americans Abroad: Bedoya extends Nantes deal, Gyau gets more surgery

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A pair of U.S. men’s national team players were in the headlines for very different reasons on Tuesday.

First, the good: USMNT attacker Alejandro Bedoya has extended his contract with surprising Ligue 1 side Nantes through the 2019 season.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup | Cahill picks China ]

The 27-year-old will play out the prime of his career in Northwestern France, where he’s made 48 league appearances and scored 6 goals since coming over from Helsingborgs in 2013. He is 37-times capped by the USMNT and is a reliable part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s set-up.

The news with Borussia Dortmund II’s Joe Gyau is far less optimal. The pacey attacker made a great impression in a pair of appearances for the USMNT this Fall before suffering a left knee injury.

Gyau returned from that injury only to hurt the same knee, and will now be out another 8-10 weeks and possibly the rest of the club season.