Jun 27, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT
Following the USA’s qualification to the second-round of the World Cup, more positive news has emerged from Brazil as star striker Jozy Altidore is in line to return.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that he is “very optimistic” about Altidore’s chances of playing vs. Belgium on Tuesday in Salvador and that “every day is a big step forward for him.”
The 24-year-old American forward pulled up in agony midway through the first half of the USA’s 2-1 win over Ghana on June 16. Since then Clint Dempsey has started both the Portugal and Germany games up top on his own, plus the U.S. have also brought on Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski up top. However without Altidore presence as the lone man the USA have struggled to create in the final third and have certainly missed the Sunderland striker.
Altidore is now back running and could be seen doing so at the teams base in Sao Paulo on Friday. That is positive news for the U.S. but will Altidore come straight back into the starting lineup or be used off the bench vs. Belgium?
I would go for the latter. It seems as though Altidore is still some way off recovering fully from his hamstring strain and if he’s not 100 percent fit, then an early battering from Belgium’s powerful defenders Vincent Kompany, Jan Verthonghen et al. isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. Instead Dempsey should start up top again, then if the U.S. need a goal or want to shake things up in the second half, Altidore should come off the bench to replace one of the wide men (likely Alejandro Bedoya or Graham Zusi) with Dempsey dropping deeper and the U.S. deploying a narrower 4-2-3-1 formation. Assuming that start with something similar to the 4-5-1 ish formation used vs. Germany.
Of course, we are still unsure if Altidore is ready to go for the Belgium game, but his presence either from the start or the subs bench would give the USA a huge boost against Belgium.
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