May 7, 2012, 9:25 AM EDT
Good news all the way around for U.S. international Jozy Altidore, whose side finished the Dutch Eredivisie season on the rise Sunday with a 1-0 win – a triumph tied to some far-reaching implications.
AZ’s 1-0 win Sunday over Groningen is important because:
Altidore is OK, after all: The U.S. striker took a big spill last week, banging his head into a hard structure along the sideline. He reported feeling “out of it” for a few seconds but never lost consciousness, and was eventually diagnosed with nothing more than a back bruise. So his start in Sunday’s match says good things.
He assisted in the important game-winner: Altidore’s entry pass helped arrange Erik Falkenburg’s goal, so he can feel good about his part in the big day.
This means extra rest for the striker: This might be the most important element in the big picture. AZ’s win, combined with a loss Sunday by Heerenveen, gives Altidore’s club fourth place in the final Dutch Eredivisie table.
In this case, there’s a big difference between fourth and fifth.
At No. 4, AZ gets a berth in next year’s Europa League qualifying (in August). A loss Sunday would have given Heerenveen that No. 4 spot – and that would mean extra games in the Netherlands, which would have been extra work (and possibly even a delay) before Altidore reports to the U.S. national team camp set to begin next week in Orlando.
The United States’ summer schedule begins May 26 in Jacksonville against Scotland.
This means extra opportunity for Altidore and AZ: Assuming he stays (and there’s no reason at the moment to believe he will not), Altidore and AZ get a shot at Europa League play. That’s big stuff for a small Dutch club like this one – one that’s been built wisely by former U.S. international Earnie Stewart, by the way.
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