Losing Jozy Altidore for any amount of time during the tournament is costly for Jurgen Klinsmans game plan. Especially since many expected him to shoulder a chunk of the load after Landon Donovan was left off the World Cup roster.
It was both good news and bad news for Team USA in their 2014 FIFA World Cup opener against Ghana on Monday. In their 2-1 victory over the jumpstart African team thats eliminated them from the last two cup tournaments, the United States accomplished some milestones.
Veteran leader Clint Dempsey became the first American to score a goal in three consecutive World Cups (he also scored the fifth-fastest goal in tournament history), while reserve defender John Brooks became the first U.S. substitute in history to score a World Cup goal.
Most importantly, U.S. Soccer gained some payback with the big win. Sadly the lone bit of bad news has overshadowed all of the good news about Mondays triumph. American forward Jozy Altidore suffered what may be a very serious injury in the first half.
Just 21 minutes into the match, Altidore suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury after he collapsed, then clutched the back of his upper leg, after attempting to field an airborne ball. The look of pain and agony was visible on Altidores face as Team USAs medical staff tended to him.
He was eventually carted off on a stretcher, and he will undergo a series of tests to determine the severity of the injury. It appears that Altidore will miss time but the question is how much. At the moment, I think its safe to say that he probably wont suit up against Portugal this weekend.
The United States for the time being will have to play with 22 men.
FIFA rules do not allow coach Klinsman to add anybody to the roster while the tournament is in progress. Altidore will be missed in more ways than one. Aside from his speed, athleticism, accuracy, and ability to make opposing defenses miserable, theres also the statistical consequences.
Altidore is second on the team in international goals scored (23), hes fifth in international appearances (71) and despite his youthful age of 24, hes one of the more experienced players on the team. Aside from replacing his skill set, his leadership and experience will also need to be replaced to some degree.
Aside from Dempsey, the only other strikers on the U.S. roster are Aron Johannsson (9 caps, 2 goals) and Chris Wondolowski (21 caps, 9 goals). Wondolowski could be the most-likely replacement for Altidore in the lineup based on his experience.
Another option would be to move midfielder Michael Bradley (87 caps, 12 goals) to the forward position and realign the rest of the team from there. Bradley possesses a similar skill set to Altidore and has already proven himself to be an offensive weapon.
Regardless of who takes the field next time, Portugal awaits the United States come Sunday. But dont let the Portugueses humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany fool you. They are still a very formidable opponent led by one of the best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo.
But dont hit the panic button just yet, this was just game one. There are still some games left to play and we all know that Team USA has the talent to overcome. We must also have faith that coach Klinsmann will adjust with a new game plan.