The USMNT had cause to celebrate Monday after an exhilarating 2-1 victory against Ghana. But it might have come at a cost.
In the 21st minute, forward Jozy Altidore fell to the ground clutching his leg. He was stretchered off the field and diagnosed with a strain to his hamstring. The 24-year-old did not return to the game, and will likely not be available when his team takes on Portugal on Sunday.
“I was sprinting and I felt something. We’ll see what happens,” Altidiore said. “I was crushed. I knew right away I couldn’t continue. It was the worst feeling.”
Altidore underwent tests on his hamstring yesterday to determine whether or not he had a tear. Late Tuesday, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that the team was in wait-and-see mode with their injured star.
“We are full of hope that he comes back still in this tournament, and that’s what we are going to work on every day,” Klinsmann said. “The medical staff has done a tremendous job. We still have hope that Jozy will come back. How quickly? That is down to his healing process.”
Heading into the World Cup, the Sunderland star figured to be a central part of the US attack. He scored 39 goals in 67 appearances for AZ Alkmaar in 2012-2013. But he had struggled of late. He only had one goal for Sunderland this season, and struggled to find his scoring touch on the US team. In the last friendly before the tournament, he finally scored his first goals in international play, putting two in the net against Nigeria.
Still, with Altidore injured, the US loses a key offensive weapon.
“It hurts to have him go out of the game, but other players have to step up now,” US captain Clint Dempsey said.
Aron Johannson, a talented ball-handler who scored 20 goals in the Dutch League this year, replaced Altidore in Monday’s match and would likely get the start on Sunday if Altidore can’t play.
Altidore wasn’t the only injury the US team sustained Monday.
Dempsey was also left banged up after the Ghana match. Shortly after Altidore left the game, Dempsey took a kick to the face that sent him to the ground. The trainers tended to him on the sidelines and he returned shortly after, but it came out later on that he broke his nose on the play.
Defender Matt Besler was also forced to the sidelines with tightness in his hamstring. He was replaced by John Brooks, the eventual hero of the match. The 21-year-old defender became the first USMNT substitute to score a goal in the World Cup.
It could not have come at a better time — even if it was the worst possible time for the injuries.
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Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images