GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – It's not so much the words coming out of Joe Gyau's mouth, but more the look in his eye.
The 18-year-old attacker, who surged through Suriname's defense again and again on Tuesday, understands how dangerous he was during the United States U-20s' opening match of the CONCACAF Championship.
Gyau scored, earned multiple free kicks and was the best player on the field for much of the 4-0 victory. Can he continue to do what he wants with the ball?
"I'm not going to say I don't feel like I can," he said, “I'm pretty confident that I can.”
He's not being cocky; it's just fact. But the Hoffenheim forward has been here before. He burst on to the world stage and ended up in Germany because of a stellar run at a previous international tournament, the 2009 U-17 World Cup.
The club signed Gyau and Charles Renken in August 2009, but the Silver Springs, Md., native struggled with the transition, only recently finding time on the U-19 squad and the reserve team.
[inline_node:332402]His improvement earned a call into an American camp in December, where Gyau tore up the flank, netting three goals in a start against Canada. He impressed during the January training stint as well, solidifying his place on the CONCACAF Championship roster.
He’s strong, fast, and agile — and too much for one defender to handle. Get him isolated on the wing — something head coach Thomas Rongen's system is designed to do — and Gyau makes good things happen.
"That's just what I've been practicing," Gyau said after the Suriname match. "My first touch on the ball is pretty good right now. I’m feeling more confident. I'm getting more and more playing time at Hoffenheim, so I think that plays into it as well."
The teenager has already proven he can fight back. He took his skill for granted after the World Cup, getting caught up in the whirlwind of success and letting training slip to the background. His difficulties finding the field at Hoffenheim are a testament to that lack of effort, but his new place on the reserve squad with a first team debut around the corner are symbolic of his fight to return.
Gyau had a choice: fade into obscurity or double down. A gambler on the field, he chose the latter option.
So here he is, wearing his Stars and Stripes warm-up suit in the bowels of Estadio Mateo Flores after a thoroughly dominating performance, discussing the faults of his game. Rongen wants him to pick his runs better. Assessment, please?
"I thought I could have done a little bit better," Gyau said, humbly. "I thought I could have chosen my spots a little bit better."
Then, he gets that look in his eyes again.
"But for the most part,” Gyau said, “I thought I was pretty dangerous."
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.