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Altidore reemerges from injury scoring goals

The play of Jozy Altidore (pictured) will be key to the USA's CONCACAF Cup aspirations. (Photo: Mexsport) 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Plagued by injury in the late spring and inconsistent play over the summer, United States forward Jozy Altidore suddenly looks like…well…the old Jozy Altidore.

The 25-year-old scored both goals in the Americans’ 2-1 come-from-behind friendly victory over Peru on Friday night, applying his recent club form over to international play. 

“Obviously we’re very pleased,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Coming back and scoring two goals is the best medicine for every striker.”

Between club and country, he’s now scored five goals in his last 165 minutes of action over three matches. Those totals include three goals scored in two substitute appearances for Toronto FC. 

Perhaps even more encouraging, on a night fellow attacking regulars Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley didn’t feature, Altidore rose beyond his striking role to become an offensive catalyst, making key plays in the lead-up to both goals.

On his first, he drew a penalty after controlling Geoff Cameron’s long throw and flicking it over a defender. For the second, he sprayed a pass wide to DeAndre Yedlin to start a sequence that finished when he got on the end of Gyasi Zardes’ deflected cross.

Afterward, Altidore downplayed his performance in the first of two final tune-up friendlies before next month’s CONCACAF Cup clash with Mexico.

“It wasn’t perfect by anybody, myself included,” he said. “But like I said, a win does a lot of things to help the morale, especially going into a game like Brazil.”

Perhaps that caution comes from July, when Klinsmann released him from the CONCACAF Gold Cup squad after the group stage, due partly to fitness issues following his hamstring injury sustained in May.

After returning to his club, he scored only once in a stretch of five starts for Toronto FC, enough to convince manager Greg Vanney to tinker with a one-forward system that transformed Altidore into a substitute. 

With all that inconsistency, Klinsmann hadn’t planned to use Altidore for the full 90 Friday night until witnessing the convincing performance. 

“He’s coming from a little bit of a difficult couple of weeks or months,” remarked Klinsmann. “The hope was, really kind of enjoying the maximum he has, and we’ll see how long that goes.” 

Now that he’s back scoring goals, Altidore still sees some distance to go before he truly reaches his peak following two hamstring injuries in as many years. Before the second marred his Gold Cup, the first prematurely ended his 2014 World Cup.

“When you have two injuries like I had in short succession, your body might feel good, but your mind isn’t there yet,” Altidore said. “I’m feeling better. I’m taking my time. I’m happy that I was able to help the team tonight.”

 
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