Would The USMNT Be Best Served With Altidore Off The Bench?

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DENY GALLAGHER
USMNT Writer

COMMENTARY – Thus far in the group stage of the Gold Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann seems to be treating each matchup as a tune-up for the tournament.

Only problem is, the tournament has already begun.

Now, if the last month following the USWNT in Canada taught us anything, it is that managers can tinker with their lineup until they get it right — even in a major competition. Klinsmann has taken a bit of that lesson on this Gold Cup. In Friday night’s lineup, only Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Brad Guzan earned consecutive starts in the tournament. Despite the different lineup, the start of the Haiti game was the same, if not worse than the opening minutes against Honduras.

Clearly there is a disconnect in the team. The defense isn’t communicating well with the midfield, and the midfield is not connecting with the forwards as much as Jurgen would like. That has led to a sputtering and aimless offensive performance.

On this final matchday against Panama, perhaps a final bit of tinkering can come in the use of Jozy Altidore.

Often times, beginning the game as a sub allows the player to view mismatches that aren’t visible inside the touchlines. On his best day, Jozy is thoroughbred. But these days, Altidore is running more like Mr. Ed than American Pharoah (Shocking I know, a millennial referencing a show from the 60’s). Altidore played 59 minutes, managing a single shot on goal against Honduras in the tournament opener. Against Haiti? Not a single shot on goal in 45 minutes of play.

With the group already won, Klinsmann should tighten the reigns on the striker rather than let Altidore run free against Panama (I promise I’m done with the horse references). Case in point: how Jill Ellis handled Abby Wambach in the Women’s World Cup. The veteran would come in against tired defenses and over power the opposition, either creating a chance herself or for one her teammates. The USMNT fell victim to this same strategy against Belgium last year in Brazil, as Romelu Lukaku came on in extra time and worked over a fatigued U.S. backline.

While he may not have the speed of the Belgian striker, Altidore has the potential to provide that same change-of-pace that can overpower tired defenses late in a match. Keep in mind; the Jersey product has six goals for Toronto FC on the season, only trailing team leader Giovinco (11). He also has a pair of goals with the USMNT in his last seven matches (his last goal came against Chile in March).

Clearly, Altidore has the tools to find goal. However, his meandering performance thus far in the Gold Cup may require a change of pace.

At the moment, the partnership between Clint Dempsey and Aron Johannsson seems to be one with great potential. While Johannsson did not get a shot off against Haiti either, he did connect well in buildup play with Dempsey and the U.S. attack. Perhaps teaming the former U.S. captain with Gyasi Zardes at his traditional forward spot wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Whatever is decided up top, Klinsmann would be wise to let Jozy come in and be a backbreaker later in the game against Panama. With the United States having more offensive weapons than ever before, it would be a no brainer for Klinsmann to use the powerful striker as a super-sub, at least until Jozy finds his ability to score goals for the U.S. at a higher clip.