Who replaces Jozy Altidore if USMNT forward is sidelined?

Who replaces Jozy Altidore if USMNT forward is sidelined?

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 16, 2014; Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, BRAZIL; United States forward Jozy Altidore (17) grabs his leg while falling to the ground during the first half of their 2014 World Cup game against Ghana at Estadio das Dunas.

Print
Email
|

by Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY Sports

NWCN.com

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 7:37 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 7:37 AM

NATAL, Brazil – Forward Jozy Altidore limped as he left the stadium late Monday night. He held on to the metal railings as he made his way onto the team bus. Whether he’ll return to action after injuring his left hamstring against Ghana is still to be determined but judging from Altidore’s post-game form, it doesn’t look good.

The Americans arrived at their Sao Paulo base camp in the wee hours after their thrilling 2-1 victory. This afternoon they will begin preparations for Sunday’s game against Portugal in Manaus.

The biggest decision Jurgen Klinsmann faces: who might take Altidore’s place?

Presumably Aron Johannsson, who replaced Altidore after the injury, will be Klinsmann’s first option. He had middling results in his 67 minutes against Ghana. As the team struggled for possession time, Johannsson barely saw the ball. But his through pass to Fabian Johnson set up the corner kick that resulted in John Brooks’ winning goal.

Johannsson, who was born in Alabama and raised in Iceland, brings qualities to the front line no other U.S. striker offers.

“Aron is a player who is very unpredictable. An opponent will not know what he has in mind,” Klinsmann said during training camp. “He sometimes thinks two or three moves ahead. … He’s a very interesting kid who will only get better from now going forward.”

The 23-year-old forward scored 26 goals for the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar this past season.

“I’ve seen him a play a lot in Europe,” said two-time World Cup veteran Brian McBride. “He’s got great movement, loves to have the ball at his feet but also can run on the ball in space. He’s a smart player, technically sound and loves to get in the box.”

Another option would be Chris Wondolowski, who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “He’s greedy in a very good way,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “He likes his goals.”

His journeyman story is compelling as well. Throughout his career, Wondolowski, 31, piled up goals in Major League Soccer, but was continually overlooked by national team coaches. The final indignity? In his first extended run with the U.S. team last summer, his name was misspelled — Wondowlowski — on his jersey.

In that Gold Cup game against Belize, Wondolowski scored a hat trick in the first half. Though he changed his jersey at half, the extra W stuck around. Now when Wondolowski puts on his national team jersey, the extra W is sewn inside.

Another possibility is 19-year-old Julian Green, but his willowy frame and inexperience at this level probably makes him more of a second-half sub.

No other forward can match Altidore’s size and strength and his ability to hold the ball to incorporate teammates into the attack.

In the 21st minute, while sprinting down the sideline, Altidore grabbed his left hamstring and fell to the pitch. As he was carried off the field in a stretcher, he covered his teary eyes with his hands. Klinsmann, at Altidore’s side, cradled his striker’s head. Altidore knew the game, and perhaps the World Cup, was over for him.

Hamstring injuries don’t heal quickly, as Altidore knows from experience. In 2011, he missed the Gold Cup semifinals and final with a hamstring injury. He said Monday’s injury felt similar to that one.

When he was asked about how difficult it is to come back quickly from such an injury, Altidore tried to sound upbeat.

“I’m up for it, it’s a once in a lifetime to be in a World Cup and hopefully I can get better and play and if not we have great guys off the bench,” he said.

Print
Email
|