(this post has been updated)
US striker Jozy Altidore, who badly injured his left hamstring during the team’s opening match against Ghana, has been cleared to play in tomorrow’s knockout-round game against Belgium.
The U.S. Soccer Federation made the announcement on its official Twitter feed:
#AreYouReady for #USAvBEL? @JozyAltidore is Ready and available for @J_Klinsmann and the #USMNT tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/kKQvsyO1Xx
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 30, 2014
This is VERY good news for the U.S. squad, which has had to rely on stalwart Clint Dempsey to anchor the attacking line. (He’s scored two of the US’ four goals made in the three opening round matches). And that hole has shown clearly as coach Jurgen Klinsmann has turned to the likes of midfielders like Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya to both move the ball from the back and make attacking runs at the net.
Jones, who spent part of his childhood playing in Germany, distinguished himself with a brilliant, side-net goal against Portugal. Substitute John Brooks’ head goal against Ghana was also key, but Altidore’s absence clearly left the US without upfront firepower, speed and strength. Germany felt little to no threat from the US attack on Sunday.
Assuming Klinsmann starts Altidore Tuesday, look for a 1-5-4 formation, with Altidore pushing forward and Dempsey playing in the role of attacking midfielder, with Bradley, Jones, Beckerman and Zusi (or Bedoya) filling out the rest of the midfield.
Klinsmann will also be hoping that his inexperienced defense has finally started to coalesce as a singular unit that can avoid getting caught napping like they did in the second Portugal goal and the Germany goal.