5
Mar

USA fail to impress in 2-0 exhibition loss to Ukraine

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The United States men’s national team slumped to the occasion in their 2-0 loss to Ukraine in a friendly marred by circumstances on Wednesday. Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic dealt Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad a harsh blow in a wholly deserved loss. It was the final game in which Klinsmann had his European-based players at his disposal before convening his World Cup camp in mid-May, and he cannot have been pleased with what he saw.

"This game helped us a lot to see where individual players are, collectively where we stand with this group of players," Klinsmann said on ESPN after the match. "Obviously we had to form a couple of new things there, starting from the back line — and you could see that, that they never played together that much."

His motley USA side, comprised of a few regulars and a slew of players on the bubble, were outsmarted by a cunning Ukrainian side. Knowing full-well where the Americans were weak, Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka tore their flanks to shreds while the high defensive line was pelted with through balls.

The tentative American defense let the Ukrainians stroll through its line several times early on. In the 12th minute, a simple ball over the top caught the central defensive pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks well out of position. That put Denys Harmash through on Tim Howard’s goal by himself. The American goalkeeper made a fine stop on his attempt, but Harmash coolly collected the rebound and laid it wide for Yarmolenko for him to pass the ball into the net.

Just a few minutes later, the Americans were caught out again on a clever play off a Ukrainian corner, but they were saved by a possibly erroneous offside call that time – Alejandro Bedoya actually appeared to keep the play onside. Sloppy and unimaginative in possession, the Yanks produced just two attacks of note in the entire first half. On the first, goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov alertly picked off the cross; on the second, Edgar Castillo’s cross wasn’t quite right and cleared. And they would give away several more fat chances, which a more incisive opponent might have punished, before the halftime whistle brought a respite.

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11
Oct

USA supporters steal the show at Sporting Park

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Sporting Park began to fill up an hour before the match started. Just before kickoff, hundreds of American flags were held up, waving magnificently in the breeze as the supporters chanted their admiration for the USA.

The national anthem was a thing to behold. More than 18,000 fans in the stands belted it out at the top of their lungs, holding their scarves in the air, setting a stunning scene for their boys in red, white and blue.

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USA fans before the match. (Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)

While the United States had already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, and their final two qualifiers are essentially meaningless, it didn’t feel that way on Friday night at Sporting Park when they took on Jamaica.

The atmosphere was electric from the get-go. Even before the match began, the American Outlaws and many other fans filled the stadium, chanting and getting hyped.

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Despite a pretty dull game for the first 80 minutes or so, the fans kept bringing the noise despite a lack of any interesting action on the pitch.

When hometown hero Graham Zusi finally broke the deadlock, the crowd at Sporting Park went absolutely bonkers. Not long after, Jozy Altidore kept the party going to score the USA’s second. The USA would go on to win 2-0, clinching first place in the Hex.

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Fans at Sporting Park. (Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)

After the match, most of the crowd stuck around as Jurgen Klinsmann and the team thanked them for making them feel at home. His players gave Klinsmann a nice cold Gatorade bath, following by the German pumping his fists in the air to Macklemore. It was a moment of pure joy that these fans shared with their team.

The thunderous roars, the chants, jumping up and down, and the sea of stars and stripes in Kansas City won’t soon be forgotten.

9
Sep

Five things to watch for during USA vs. Mexico

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COLUMBUS, OHIO

In falling to Costa Rica for the seventh consecutive time on the Ticos’ home ground, the Americans added yet more gravitas to the already-loaded build-up for their World Cup qualifier against Mexico here on Tuesday. So, having allowed some time and space for hindsight, here are the relevant lessons drawn from the 3-1 loss as they relate to yet another crucial bout:

1. Michael Bradley is indispensable

Folding over his ankle in the final movements of the warm-up and ruling the central midfielder out of the game plainly unsettled the team. He is their emotional leader, after all, the man leading by his combative example and, from the looks of it, verbally too. But when he fell away, they lost more than that. What Bradley brings to the table, nobody else can replicate. Shuttling between boxes, he sets the pace, tone and rhythm of the run of play. He covers much ground defensively, distributes from deep and gets counterattacks started. Geoff Cameron, the late replacement for Bradley, tried to fill that role but he hasn’t the range and simply isn’t as tidy with the ball. Bradley’s absence against Mexico will have to be compensated for; his many roles filled by a combination of others.

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5
Sep

Five things to watch: Costa Rica v USA

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

On Friday, the United States men’s national team plays its seventh of ten games in the final stage of World Cup qualifying against Costa Rica.

Here are five urgent questions heading into the game:

Is Jozy Altidore ready to go?

The young target man, newly of Sunderland, is recovering from a hamstring injury. After getting an MRI in Miami upon joining the team, he was given the go-ahead by the medical staff. But how effective he will be, and how durable, remains to be seen.

His importance can hardly be overstated. There is no other striker available who is so proficient at holding up the ball and getting the adjoining attackers involved. And Altidore has scored in his last five USA games, a record, tallying seven goals in all.

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Image courtesy of AP Images

Who will play right back?

Steve Cherundolo is still out with an injury. Timmy Chandler is unavailable too. And Brad Evans, who has played in the spot most recently, was a late scratch from the team because of a calf injury. He was replaced on the roster by Michael Parkhurst, but he, like fellow candidate Geoff Cameron isn’t a natural at the right back position.

Both have their limitations going forward. And both are fourth-stringers at best.

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1
Sep

Jozy Altidore’s absence creates cause for concern for US, Klinsmann

By Kyle McCarthy

The absence of Jozy Altidore from Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday creates some cause for concern for United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.

Sunderland announced Altidore missed the defeat at Selhurst Park with a hamstring injury on its official Twitter feed. The extent of the injury remains uncertain:

He is expected to link up with his American teammates in Miami and receive further evaluation by the U.S. medical staff, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson confirmed on Saturday.

Altidore’s importance to the side in recent months makes the diagnosis particularly influential. The former AZ striker has scored in each of his past five appearances, including a hat trick in the 4-3 victory at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Aug. 14. His recent form (he leads all scorers in the Hexagonal with three goals) and his status within the ranks leaves Klinsmann with a quandary if he is, for some reason, unable to feature.

Landon Donovan’s return to the ranks creates additional depth and flexibility in the attacking third, but Altidore plays a particularly vital role given his willingness to lead the line. Most of the players at Klinsmann’s disposal – including Donovan and captain Clint Dempsey – prefer to drift into dangerous areas from a variety of angles and operate in the space underneath a center forward. Altidore instead provides the touchstone required to allow other players to thrive. And there is no player in the current squad capable of replicating those exact contributions.

If Altidore cannot feature against Costa Rica or Klinsmann opts to hold him out to provide him with more recovery time (or sidestep a potential second booking), then the Americans must figure how to adapt without him.

There isn’t a simple answer to the quandary. Eddie Johnson probably presents the most natural swap – he isn’t a prototypical target player, but he does stave off defenders and surge behind the line – on a night when the Americans might have to soak up some pressure. Dempsey supplies the primary alternative given his dexterity and the potential opening created for Donovan, but a tethered position up front reduces his ability to influence the game in other ways. And Klinsmann – as evidenced by his willingness to deploy Johnson on the left side of midfield and use DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans at fullback – possesses the imagination to explore other options as well.

Klinsmann will certainly hope he does not have to pursue any of them. Altidore remains the firm first choice up front. But he will have to wait and see whether Altidore’s health will dispel any uncertainty in the coming days and permit him to take his usual place up front in San Jose on Friday night.

Images: Getty Images

14
Aug

Jozy Altidore’s hat trick extends USA winning streak

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These international friendlies are supposed to be tune-ups for next year’s World Cup, but the United States probably wouldn’t mind if it started tomorrow.

The US is officially the hottest national team in the world, riding a team-record and current world-best 12-game winning streak after an impressive comeback over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Down 2-0 to the 13th-ranked team in FIFA, Jozy Altidore continued his national team revival with a sublime hat trick in the second half - adding an assist to boot - in leading the US to a 4-3 win.

For Altidore, it was the fifth straight national team match in which he’s scored, a first for any player in USMNT history. For the team, it was yet another confidence-booster in a win streak that dates back to June’s toppling of powerhouse Germany. The US is now just three wins shy of the world’s all-time record, held by Spain (that streak, oh by the way, was snapped by the US in 2009)

After setting up Eddie Johnson for the USA’s first strike, Altidore opened his account with this classy finish:

Full of confidence, Altidore next proved he can also master dead ball situations. Have the US found a new free kick specialist?

Up 3-2 now, Altidore’s third would prove to be decisive, as Bosnia and Herzegovina later added a third goal of their own:

Hey, Premier League, were you watching?

19
Jul

10 Questions: Jozy Altidore talks Premier League, Di Canio and more

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By Leander Schaerlaeckens, FOXSoccer.com

On July 5, Jozy Altidore sealed his transfer from AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands to Sunderland of the Barclays Premier League. The Black Cats will be the 23-year-old’s seventh club. His reported transfer fee of $13 million broke his own American record of the $10 million Villarreal paid the New York Red Bulls in 2008. On Friday, FOX Soccer caught up with Altidore to chat about his transfer and the reasoning behind the move:

FOX Soccer: During your last spell in the Premier League with Hull City in the 2009-10 season, you faced a steep learning curve. Do you think you’re better prepared this time around?

Jozy Altidore: “I don’t think it’s about being better prepared. Looking back on it, I think I was the number one striker on that team, not the greatest team in the world, I was always going to be up against it. It wasn’t easy. Now I’ve played in Europe more, I think I’m a little bit of a different type of player now than I was when I was 19 years old.”

FS: You matured rapidly with AZ. How did that help shape your career?

JA: “Just being there and training every single player day was good, you learned every single day. It was a really good two years for me, in every aspect. Just becoming a target man became a bit more natural for me.”

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26
Apr

Jozy Altidore has been tearing it up in the Eredivisie.

The USA international has now scored 30 goals in all competitions this season for AZ Alkmaar. His performance on Friday, scoring two goals and notching an assist, helped AZ defeat Heerenveen 4-0.

It also moved his club closer to survival, as they could clinch safety if Roda can’t win their match tomorrow.

30
Jan

American forward Jozy Altidore was the target of racist chants Tuesday during AZ Alkmaar’s 5-0 win over second-tier Den Boscha in the quarterfinals of the Dutch Cup.

The game was stopped by referee Reinold Wiedemeijer, but Altidore himself asked for it to be continued and he scored with a penalty. He has won praise for his calm response to the situation.

Here now is a video clip of Altidore’s interview following the racial abuse that he suffered during the Dutch cup match.