DETROIT — What a difference a couple of days make.
Coming out of Saturday’s loss to Spain, the US national team seemed to be a jumble of question marks: How would the side overcome a thumping just days before opening up their 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign? Who would be the central pairing in defense? Would striker Jozy Altidore, who struggled to make an impact against the Spanish, start up top?
The answers came early on Tuesday. The US came out flying, Altidore started and scored in the 15th minute, and the entire side turned in a confident performance in a 2-0 win over Canada.
“To start off the tournament going in a good direction was important to us,” Altidore said after the match.
Altidore, in particular, was on his game. He scored his first goal for the US in a competitive match since 2009. He was involved in the second goal as well, serving a cross that forward partner Juan Agudelo tipped and Clint Dempsey finished with a sliding strike.
“For confidence, it’s a good game for Jozy,” coach Bob Bradley said. "The movement that led to the first goal and the ball that he put across for Clint’s goal. When you go through a stretch with your club team when you’re not playing regularly and not getting goals, I think in terms of confidence, this was very important.”
Confidence was arguably an issue for the US team coming into the match with Canada following the Spain game. But although there was a great deal of hand-wringing after that 4-0 defeat, the US players actually took inspiration from competing against the reigning World Cup champions.
“When you play games against teams like Spain, it helps you,” Altidore said. “You see the right way to play. [Against Canada], in the first 20 to 25 minutes, we raised our level. We were aggressive. When you see how the best in the world do it, it helps you, especially in our region, when we’re going to have the ball most of the time. You can’t be exactly like them, but you can emulate them.”
Altidore may not have been exactly like Spanish striker David Villa, but he picked the perfect time to emulate him.