Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
SALVADOR, Brazil — Jozy Altidore might be “ready and available”, but what that exactly means in terms of his role for Tuesday is unknown.
U.S. Soccer announced on Monday afternoon via its social networks that Altidore was healthy enough to partake in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s Round of 16 match vs. Belgium, but U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann remained tight-lipped about the amount of minutes the forward can play after an injury layoff at an ensuing press conference at Arena Fonte Nova.
“Well, we don’t know how much because we have to see how things going but we will,” said Klinsmann. “This is what we want, this is what we hoped for, this is what the medical staff has been working since the injury on him and they’ve done a tremendous job. They worked day and night with Jozy, so just having him with us is huge. How many minutes? We’ll see that during the game.”
The 24-year-old Altidore has been out of commission since sustaining a left hamstring strain in the 21st minute of the Americans’ Group G opener vs. Ghana on June 16. He was seen jogging with a trainer during the first 15 minutes of two separate training sessions that were open to media over the weekend, but it is unknown if he has done any work with the ball or trained with his teammates.
Klinsmann – who has remained optimistic throughout the World Cup that his first-choice striker would return at some point - did not provide any clarity on those details when asked how much time Altidore has had in full training.
“Now, difficult to say (with) Jozy - in the two or three days he’s been with the team - how much work is in his legs,” said Klinsmann. “There’s a lot of individual stuff going on, with the physios also in the gym – we have our own gym in Sao Paulo - and they worked day and night on Jozy. But it’s now difficult to say how many minutes.”
While Klinsmann may have tried to dance around questions about Altidore’s potential role, the manager may have offered a hint that the forward was not starting when talking about the U.S. attack.
Klinsmann mentioned that captain Clint Dempsey needs to be fed balls in the penalty area in order to create more scoring opportunities. Dempsey has been the player to fill Altidore’s role up top in the Americans’ group stage matches against Portugal and Germany.
“Go forward and attack them and you create chances and get (Dempsey) some balls in the box because you give him two and he makes one,” said Klinsmann before pausing and then adding onto his statement with a smile. “At least.”
That could have been Klinsmann accidentally revealing his hand or trying to tactically deliver a smokescreen message.
Either way, Altidore will be in uniform on Tuesday. It is just unknown right now if he will start or come off the bench.