A new-look US men's national team kicked off the road to Russia 2018 with an encouraging 1-0 win over the Czech Republic at Stadion Letná in Prague on Wednesday, Alejandro Bedoya's 39th-minute strike punishing a glaring error by the home side to earn coach Jurgen Klinsmann's latest victory on European soil.
After a solid first-half display, the US faded dramatically after the break but were bailed out by the Czechs' rusty finishing and several superb saves by Real Salt Lake star Nick Rimando, who staked his claim for the No. 1 goalkeeping job left vacant by Tim Howard's year-long break from international play.
Klinsmann rolled out a forward-leaning starting lineup, with Jozy Altidore flanked by Julian Green and Joe Gyau (both making their first-ever USMNT starts) at the top of a 4-3-3 alignment with no out-and-out defensive midfielder as Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Bedoya staffed the engine room.
The US saw plenty of the ball in the early going but rarely knitted together much danger in the final third, their best look falling to the right foot of Gyau as the Borussia Dortmund winger cut inside and combined with Altidore. But Gyau's shot flew right to veteran Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech for a comfortable save.
Keen to build play out of the back wherever possible, the visitors continued to probe the Czech defense with Gyau looking particularly bright.
But that enterprise was nearly exploited in the 33rd minute as Tomas Rosicky led a quick counterattack after a US corner kick that was capped by an open look at an empty net at the far post for Vladimir Darida. To the Yanks' relief, the pass skipped just a bit too far ahead of the Czech midfielder and his sliding bid flew high and wide of the target.
Six minutes later, Darida and Cech teamed up on a costly error that handed the US the game's only goal.
The 'keeper put his teammate in a tough spot by throwing him a bouncing ball in traffic and Darida's poor first touch compounded the difficulty, allowing Diskerud to nip in and advance on Cech alone.
Diskerud's shot was saved by Cech, but he allowed a rebound that was calmly dispatched into the net by Bedoya for a 1-0 US lead.
Klinsmann and his men took that advantage into the halftime break and when they returned, Rimando took Guzan's spot in goal and Tim Ream replaced Orozco in central defense.
Rimando was called into action on the hour mark, and more than passed the test with a fine reaction save to deny Ladislav Krejci at point-blank range after Rosicky's canny chip sent his teammate clear in the US box.
Rimando had to be sharp again six minutes later when Darida was allowed to turn and shoot in the area, palming his rising shot away from the near post.
Klinsmann used up his full deck of substitutions for the home stretch, handing Greg Garza and Emerson Hyndman their USMNT debuts in relief of Chandler and Diskerud, respectively, while Alfredo Morales made his second career appearance and Brek Shea replaced Corona.
Unsurprisingly, the team's flow was disrupted and Rimando had to make key saves on Radim Reznik and Daniel Pudil in the dying moments as the US defense went missing. But the young Yanks held out until the final whistle to secure their first-ever victory over the Czechs.
The USMNT is back in action Stateside next month with dates in East Hartford, Connecticut vs. Ecuador (October 10) and Boca Raton, Florida vs. Honduras.