In 1991, the USMNT had one game on the schedule for October, a friendly against North Korea at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. As unlikely opponents go, North Korea had limited their opposition to Asian, Soviet, and Middle Eastern teams since playing Canada in the 1986 Merlion Cup. The trip to Washington, DC, was the only game they played in 1991 and their only friendly in the run-up to Asian Cup qualifying eight months later.
The United States had won the first Gold Cup that summer, beating Mexico in the semifinals and Honduras for the title. Three games into a five game runs of friendlies that fall, they had beaten Romania and Jamaica, drawing against Turkey.
With 16,351 in attendance, the United States’ run of form ended. Bruce Murray scored in the 25th minute, but North Korea took the game 2-1.
USMNT 2 – North Korea 1
Oct 19th, 1991
USMNT: Meola, Michallik (Savage), Armstrong, Balboa, Clavijo, Murray, Kinnear (Eck), Quinn, Henderson (Gyau), Perez, Wynalda
This would be the last of Philip Gyau’s six caps for the United States. The Maryland youth soccer and Howard University product spent most of his professional career in the DC area, playing for the American Professional Soccer League’s Washington Diplomats and Maryland Bays, as well as the Continental Indoor Soccer League’s Washington Warthogs. He was also captain and then coach of the US National Beach Soccer Team until 2002.
Gyau recently coached DC United’s Under-13 squad, and his son Joseph-Claude, 15, is in the US Under-17 residency program at Bradenton, and has attracted serious interest from German clubs VfB Stuttgart and Bayern Munich. His father Joseph played for Ghana, and in the North American Soccer League, and had the distinction of playing three seasons for the Washington team in all of its three NASL incarnations — when they were the Whips (1968), the Darts (1970), and the Diplomats (1974).
Interview with Philip Gyau (October, 2007)
USSoccerPlayers: What are your memories of the US-North Korea game?
Gyau: That’s a long time ago. I thought we could have won that game, but soccer’s unpredictable. I just enjoyed playing with those guys. For me personally, at that point in time, I was maybe an outsider, because I kind of came on the team from nowhere. It was difficult to break in because most of those guys had been there with the regional teams and been playing in that system for a long time. I wasn’t really an American, you know? Now if you’re a good player you get a solid chance.
USSoccerPlayers: What do you remember about your teammates that day?
Gyau: When I was first on the National Team, Eric [Wynalda] was just a young kid. I was in St. Louis doing some kind of fitness test, and Bruce Murray was telling me, ‘This new kid is coming in, he’s supposed to be the real deal.’ This was before they started getting ready for the  World Cup. In 1989 or 1990 I was MVP in the American Professional Soccer League. That gave me an extra chance to play on the National Team, so when I wasn’t selected to go to the World Cup I was disappointed.
But a coach has his own ideas, and who he thinks will fit, so you can understand that. But he [Bob Gansler] took all these other kids who’d never even played in a league. They came back from Italy and they were doing some kind of tour, and Gansler said, ‘I’ll give you a second chance to be on the team,’ but then he never really did. Then Bora [Milutinovic] came in and he had his own ideas.
I thought Eric was good, but they gave him a really good chance to succeed. That’s what you need as a young player, you need that support. When Eric first came in, they decided — here’s someone we really want in the program, and we’ll do whatever we can to help him succeed. And that’s what they did.
USSoccerPlayers: How difficult was it for you in the APSL to get noticed by the National Team, compared with the players who were coming up through the college system?
Gyau: Eric was a good player, so that’s okay. But then you have some guys they were giving chances to that weren’t very good. I don’t want to say any names, but there were guys they were giving chances to that didn’t mean it. That was disheartening.
Now that I look back I don’t have any hard feelings. Some of the college coaches had direct contact with the National Team, but if you were in the APSL, the only way in was if you were an All-Star or MVP or something like that. [former Howard University coach] Lincoln Phillips called Gansler and said ‘You should take a look at this guy.’
The first time, I played against Benfica [a 2-1 win at Giants Stadium, June 1989, Gyau scoring the game winner] and did well, and I even moved to Belgium on the strength of that. I guess I got a direct line through Lincoln Phillips too.
Back then we were playing all these club games, but they didn’t count as caps. It gave you good experience. Now the exposure to soccer now is so much. When we were playing we could hardly get one or two games on television.
USSoccerPlayers: After the North Korea game, did you get called into any more camps?
Gyau: After that game, we played against Costa Rica in Dallas. We went to the training camp in Dallas and I was doing very well, scoring goals left and right. Then the guy never even selected me for the game. And I was thinking, ‘What happened?’ because what happens at practice is how you select the players. But that was the end of it.
My father didn’t want me to play for the US, because he didn’t think I’d get a chance. He wanted me to play for Ghana.