U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann lacks someone in the squad able to
muscle past defenders and create space and opportunities for others
like the burly Altidore, whose hamstring injury has probably ruled
him out of the rest of the tournament.
After dispatching Ghana 2-1 in a dramatic Group G opener, the United
States know victory against the Portuguese on Sunday should put them
through to the last 16 for the fourth time in the last seven
But without the striker who has long been a key cog in the U.S.
attack, the Americans are left with two untested players to partner
captain Clint Dempsey, who is nursing a broken nose and may be
forced to play with a protective mask.
“It wasn’t easy to swallow the first pill with Jozy coming off the
field," Klinsmann said after the Ghana match. "He is very, very
important to us."
Altidore's injury and the paucity of proven replacements have also
revived questions over Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan
and other experienced players at home.
Aside from leaving all-time national team scoring leader Donovan out
of the squad, Klinsmann omitted Terrence Boyd, a mobile, physical
player who can play as a target man and would have been more of a
straight swap for Altidore.
Klinsmann is now likely to choose between Aron Johannsson, who made
little impact when he came on against Ghana, and Chris Wondolowski,
a 31-year-old Major League Soccer veteran.
Johannsson, whose was born in Alabama but grew up in Iceland, gave
the U.S. team a pacy striker when he pledged his football future to
the United States last year.
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The 23-year-old, known as "iceman" for his cool finishing, was one
of the top scorers in the Dutch top flight last season, knocking in
17 league goals for AZ Alkmaar.
Although a proven goal-scorer at club level, Johannsson has made
nine appearances for the United States and against Ghana had trouble
making much of an impact against a quick, physical defense.
Wondolowski is a hard-working striker who has spent his entire
professional career in Major League Soccer and is untested at the
highest levels in club football.
More of a poacher than a true target man, Wondolowski is a former
MLS scoring leader but his nine goals for the national team have
come mainly in friendlies or against weak opponents.
Klinsmann has expressed confidence in his entire squad but whoever
gets handed the job has his work cut out for him in the jungle heat
of Manaus even against a Portugal defense missing Fabio Coentrao and
Pepe due to injury and suspension.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Ed Osmond)
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