Speed kills. It is the most essential element during a counterattack to help a team outnumber an opponent’s defense and exploit the man advantage in order to create quality scoring chances.
Aside from DeAndre Yedlin, speed was largely absent from the wing for the USMNT in Brazil this past summer. Landon Donovan used to provide this speed on the wing. This was perfectly illustrated by the game-winning goal against Algeria in the final group stage match during the 2010 World Cup where he scored on the break after receiving a quick outlet from Tim Howard. Speed in the attack was also a large reason why Eddie Johnson and Charlie Davies were able to find a place for them on the USMNT over the years.
That lack of speed this summer, among other things, is why the offense in Brazil seemed stagnant at times. The need for groundbreaking speed on the USMNT roster is one of the reasons why Joseph Claude “Joe”Gyau is one of the most intriguing attacking prospects for the USMNT.
The 22 year-old Florida native played club soccer in Maryland before joining the IMG Academy in 2009. In 2011, after two sharp years at the academy, Joe signed with German club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II, and was quickly promoted to their first team. In the summer of 2014 he was transferred to Borussia Dortmund II, the 3rd division side in the Bundesliga which serves as the U-23 team for the renowned Borussia Dortmund, after having played on loan at FC St.Pauli.
Borussia Dortmund II is a fertile breeding ground to cultivate Gyau’s talent, but as many Americans have found, breaking into the first team of a major European side is a difficult task. Despite this, the primary benefit of playing for a major European club team is the competition for roster spots and the superior coaching staff. Joe Gyau has the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest coaches and talent developers in the game, Jurgen Klopp, and his time within the development system at Borussia Dortmund could prove invaluable to his growth as a player.
In fact, Gyau did not have to wait long to make his debut on the first team. On September 22nd he came in as a substitute in the 74th-minute in a 2-2 draw against Vfb Stuttgart after being an unused substitute in the previous two matches. He played a solid match where he almost had an assist and completed 8 of 9 passes but the most important thing to note about his debut, and his spot on the bench in the previous two games, is what both mean for his first team prospects this season. A consistent selection for the first team roster means that Joe gets to train day in and day out with some of the top talent in the world as well as exposure to the lectures and unique teaching style of one of the world’s most respected coaches and his staff. There are not many American talents who can boast those credentials and it is why Joe Gyau is poised to be an important part of the future of the USMNT’s attack.
Currently, Jozy Altidore is the focal point of the front line; but he could use a quick, creative winger to work off his hold-up play and provide crosses. Speed and creativity is a missing element of the current USMNT attack and Joe Gyau can be the player that provides both. He is an incredible athlete who shows great strength on the ball and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. During the recent game against Czech Republic he showed what he can add to the team going forward. At times he was not as effective but he showed the intangibles which US soccer fans have been clamoring for. His tremendous upside, coupled with the perfect environment to nurture his development, has led many to believe that he is certain to make the 2018 USMNT World Cup roster. The most important part of insuring his inclusion is whether he gets the requisite playing time to gain experience and develop his abilities. Thankfully, his rise to the bench of Borussia Dortmund’s first team roster could not have come at a better time due to their current underwhelming form and injuries to Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Whether he manages to exploit this opportunity still remains to be seen.
There will be growing pains for him as there are for most USMNT prospects. Jurgen Klinsmann demands his players to be playing against top competition but players do not develop as quickly riding the bench, no matter where they are playing. Riding the bench at Borussia Dortmund is not necessarily better than starting every game at Utrecht, and for that reason players such as Joe Gyau are always under the threat of losing their form.
Former US international David Wanger is the current coach of Borussia Dortmund II so he will make sure to get the most out of Joe Gyau when he is playing for Borussia Dortmund II. However, Gyau needs first team experience in order to reach his full potential.
Julian Green went to Hamburg on loan to help himself find playing time and Joe Gyau may have to do the same to insure his talent does not stagnate. If he can remain in form and utilize his opportunity to train under one of the greatest coaches and teams in the world then he can add a new dynamic to the USMNT offense that was so lacking in the 2014 World Cup.
First Published in First Touch