With other forwards on the shelf, US counting on Jozy Altidore vs. Honduras

ExtraTime Radio Podcast

With other forwards on the shelf, US counting on Jozy Altidore vs. Honduras -

LISTEN: No matter whether you think it's a must-win or not, there's no doubt the stakes for the US national team's Friday night Hex match against Honduras are massive. The guys break down the Hex with Sebastian Lletget, get some inside info on Los Catrachos from a well-placed source and then turn to MLS to pass judgment on Bastian Schweinsteiger to the Fire and the open Real Salt Lake job. Subscribe so you don't miss a show!

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Of all the forwards originally invited to US national team camp this month, it’s somewhat ironic that Jozy Altidore might be the last one left fully healthy.

Hamstring injuries have derailed Altidore repeatedly in recent international competitions, leading to missed time in the 2011 and 2015 Gold Cups, and, most famously, much of the Americans’ run to the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. 

But since recovering from the strain that cost him a spot in last year’s Copa America Centenario, Altidore has been practically unstoppable – a run of form the Americans would dearly love to see continue into 1452932277" tabindex="0">Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras (10:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, Follow on the MLS App).

“Jozy is always up for things,” said Michael Bradley, the US captain and Altidore’s club teammate. “Whether it’s for the national team, whether it’s for Toronto FC, when big moments come, he’s a guy that leaves everything he has on the field for the group. ... We’re going to count on him in a big way 1452932278" tabindex="0">on Friday night.”

Including TFC’s postseason run to an appearance at MLS Cup, Altidore finished with 15 goals and seven assists in his final 21 matches of 2016 – a stretch that included five appearances off the bench as he was being worked back into form following injury.

The 27-year-old continued that trend this year, with two goals and an assist in Toronto’s first three matches of the new season.

“He’s a guy who can make a difference in so many different ways,” Bradley said. “He can, with quality, get us a goal. If it’s a different kind of game, he’s someone whose physicality and competitiveness makes such a difference.”

The US was outscored 6-1 in losing their first two games in the Hex. Even if forward Clint Dempsey is just coming back from his heart issues and striker Jordan Morris is nursing an ankle knock, Altidore know that home teams must press their advantage and get out front at Avaya Stadium.

“The home games especially, we’re on the front foot a little more,” Altidore said of the Hex. “We’ll have more of the ball, and it’s on us to try to take the game to them, create holes, create gaps and try to score some goals.”

If the Americans are kept off the scoreboard, don’t point to recent form as being part of the problem. Including latecomer Chris Wondolowski, added after Morris suffered his injury during Seattle’s 3-1 win against New York1452932279" tabindex="0">on Sunday, the Americans’ quartet of forwards in camp – all MLS players – have combined for six goals and three assists in league play this year.

“I think it’s big,” Altidore said of players coming into US camp on a roll. “But it’s also a blow that we don’t have Bobby [Wood], because I think Bobby, he’s been terrific the past 18 months, a guy that has just really found a way to help us.”

With Wood knocked out by a back injury, it will be up to Altidore and his teammates to make Bruce Arena’s reintroduction to the Hex a successful one.

“It’s natural, when you get a new coach, that everybody’s attention to detail is a bit greater,” Altidore said. “Everything just lifts a bit more when you get a new coach. Everybody is more alert, and that’s maybe something that can help our team going forward now. But all that matters now is 1452932280" tabindex="0">Friday night that we approach the game the right way, and we need to win the game. That’s the most important thing.”