EAST HARTFORD, May 26 – The United States fell 4-2 to Czech Republic on Tuesday in their last friendly football match before coach Bob Bradley names the 23-man squad for the World Cup finals.Czech Republic took full advantage of defensive lapses by the Americans, who will host Turkey in a friendly on Saturday before the squad departs for South Africa.
Maurice Edu in the 17th minute and Herculez Gomez in the 66th each got their first international goals as Bradley rested regulars including Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard and instead took a last look at some of the players hoping to make the World Cup roster he was to name on Wednesday.
"We’re all nervous," Gomez admitted. "Anxiously awaiting Bob’s decision."
The news wasn’t all good as defenders Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce, Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo often struggled in midfield, giving room to the Czechs, who didn’t qualify for the World Cup.
Bradley said he knew the players were in a tough situation.
"A lot of energy at times. A little bit crazy," Bradley said of the contest. "In the process of trying to put so much into it I think at times we left ourselves wide open.
"You can only imagine when they come off the field, the emotions," he added. "Guys know we’re now at a point where some tough decisions need to be made."
After Edu opened the scoring, Czech Republic equalized through Tomas Sivok a minute before halftime.
Jan Polak made it 2-1 for the visitors in the 58th. Gomez, who came on at halftime, answered, but Martin Fenin in the 77th and Tomas Necid in injury time secured the victory that disappointed most of the crowd of 36,218 at Rentschler Field.
Gomez, making just his third international appearance and his first in three years, equalized when he beat Czech keeper Petr Cech after a neat backheel pass from Brian Ching.
Fenin took advantage of an American defensive breakdown, beating US keeper Brad Guzan after Goodson and Cherundolo all failed to clear a ball in front of the goal.
Necid had an open path to the final goal after Edu jumped but failed to clear pass.
Gomez, DaMarcus Beasley and Stuart Holden turned in solid performances that appeared to augur well for their chances of making the trip to South Africa.
Onyewu played 65 minutes in his first match since knee surgery.
Edson Buddle, making his second national team appearance and first in seven years, made an aggressive start. He was hindered as he had to get treatment for a cut on his face, but played a part in the goal from Edu, who plays for Rangers in the Scottish Premier League.
Holden, playing his second match since his right leg was broken in a March 3 friendly in the Netherlands, sent a free kick in from the near side.
Cech came out but didn’t reach the cross, and the ball went from Buddle to Edu, who knocked it in.
Sivok capitalized on a slow-to-react Onyewu to get the equalizer. Onyewu, the towering defender who tore a left knee tendon in America’s last World Cup qualifier on October 14 and had surgery the following week.
After a foul by Goodson, Jaroslav Plasil fired a free kick across the box and Sivok headed the ball past Guzan, beating Onyewu who was late to jump.
Polak beat Pearce to David Lafata’s pass in front of the goal and easily beat Guzan.
On Saturday the Americans host Turkey in Philadelphia, one day before they leave for South Africa.
Once there, they will play one more friendly, against Australia on June 5, one week before they take on England in their World Cup opener.
The match is a rematch of America’s famous upset in the 1950 World Cup, and the new white home kit worn by the US on Tuesday was designed to echo that worn by the 1950 side.
After Bradley names the squad on Wednesday, they are slated to visit the White House on Thursday.