Goodbye Tomas Rosicky, The Man Who Beautifully Destroyed The USA’s 2006 World Cup

Full of naive hope for the ’06 World Cup, the USMNT was promptly annihilated by the man dubbed “the little Mozart.”

Compared to the pain of missing the event entirely, the tale of the USMNT’s 2006 World Cup can now be viewed in a more favorable light. However, after reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 competition and subsequently breezing through CONCACAF qualifying for the ’06 tournament in Germany, it was with huge belief and soaring naivety that we approached the world’s biggest stage.

The draw into Group E was seen as navigable. Italy couldn’t be touched, but Ghana were at their first-ever World Cup and the opener against the Czech Republic took on the significance of a knockout round match. It was doable. After four years of swelling optimism, Gelsenkirchen would be the site of the latest heroics from Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and company. 

Five minutes in, disaster. Czech winger Karel Poborsky was suddenly in acres of space on the right and he directed a cross in the direction of 6-8 tree Jan Koller. The Borussia dortmund giant thumped a header beyond Kasey Keller, but we still had 85 minutes to make things right. We wouldn’t be so easily undone again — there’s no way we’d allow it.

But 31 minutes later, the USA’s World Cup dream was effectively over. Four years of hope, crushed inside 36 minutes. To be fair, the States weren’t easily undone on the second goal. It was a piece of magic from a man we’d been warned about — Tomas Rosicky. 

Dubbed “the little Mozart,” Rosicky had just signed for Arsenal after five impressive seasons with Dortmund. Arsene Wenger had waxed lyrical about the attacking midfielder, but his individual brilliance was a shock to the American system. How does one score a goal like this? It was a lesson to our pubescent nation.

The rifled effort eviscerated Bruce Arena’s game plan — striker Eddie Johnson and midfield creator John O’Brien were thrown on at half, but the match was put to bed in the 76th minute by that man again, Rosicky. 

The Czech No. 10 strode through the American midfield, receiving a pass from Pavel Nedved before racing in on goal. With Keller out to shutoff the angle, the little Mozart clipped a delightful effort with the outside of his right boot to secure all three points.  

We’d witnessed greatness on ESPN2. We’d been undone by the sort of footballing genius that was miles ahead of anything we could've claimed to have produced. 

Tomas Rosicky retirement

Rosicky in a 2014 friendly vs. the USA. Photo: @ArsenalEngineer | Twitter

Rosicky would become a fan favorite at Arsenal over the course of 10 injury-plagued seasons. He missed significant time because of knee and achilles injuries, but his love for the game saw him return to boyhood club Sparta Prague in 2016.

Today, aged 37, Rosicky announced his professional retirement. 

“After careful consideration I have realized I am no longer able to fully prepare my body for what professional football requires,” Rosicky said at a press conference. “I would like to thank Sparta for raising me, for being the first step in my career in big clubs, and for allowing me to say goodbye at the place I love the most.”

Goodbye Tomas Rosicky, a dreamy footballer who conjured an unforgettable nightmare for the USMNT.