SAO PAULO – As of Tuesday night, Jozy Altidore's and Matt Besler’s MRI results were still a mystery, but US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann felt confident clearing at least one of them for Sunday’s Group G match against Portugal (6 pm ET, ESPN)
That would be Besler, who Klinsmann said would be “all fine for the next game” during a press conference following an overnight flight from Natal that got the team back to their hotel here after 4 am local time. Both players left the US’ 2-1 victory against Ghana with hamstring injuries, Altidore straining his left in the 21st minute and Besler removed at halftime because of tightness in his right.
Neither player was present at São Paulo FC’s Barra Funda training center on Tuesday as they underwent MRIs. Despite Altidore’s pained reaction to the injury during the Ghana match and the fact he left on a stretcher, Klinsmann was hopeful the striker’s tournament wasn’t yet finished.
“With Jozy, we’ve got to see now how he reacts the next couple of days with his hamstring,” he told reporters. “We are full of hope that he comes back still in this tournament. That’s what we’re going to work on every day. The medical staff is doing a tremendous job for weeks, so we still have to hope that Jozy will be back. How quickly? That is down to his healing process.”
Ever positive, both with the media and the player himself, Klinsmann then went a step further.
“Obviously it’s a bummer for all of us with Jozy, but we’ll make the best out it,” he added. “We’re going to get him back in this tournament.”
Asked whether he thought the heavy load in training camp might have had something to do with two hamstring injuries in the span of 20 minutes, Klinsmann said the pace and physicality of the game as well as the demanding conditions were the likely culprits.
Still, he faces the very real possibility that Altidore won’t be able to play against Portugal in Manaus, more likely targeting a potential return in against Germany in Recife on June 26. Just don’t ask Klinsmann to tip his hand should that be the case.
“I don’t want to go too deep into details because obviously we want Portugal to guess a little bit as well,” he said. “When one of your key players is not available, does it change certain things? Absolutely it does. Jozy is a very strong, key player in our group.
“We’ll think about the right way to handle that situation. We can still field 11, so we’re not a man down. We still have somebody coming in. We’ll make it very, very difficult for Portugal in Manaus. We’ll find solutions, without saying names.”
Clint Dempsey, meanwhile, will certainly be at Klinsmann’s disposal in a game that could very well seal the USMNT’s passage to the knockout round.
Following the win in Natal, Dempsey told reporters he thought his nose was broken, and a US Soccer spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that the American captain was correct in his diagnosis. Whether Dempsey will wear a protective mask has yet to be decided.
“I don’t know how much a mask can protect him,” Klinsmann said. “Whatever he feels good with. It was a broken nose, yes. It was tricky during the game. He barely could breath. He struggled with that. But once it’s broken, it’s broken. It will take time to heal completely.”
Two other starters experienced minor issues against Ghana, but neither is expected to experience any lingering effects.
Geoff Cameron was sick, according to a US spokesperson. Alejandro Bedoya said he suffered from a hip pointer after a collision during a corner kick in the first half and also felt hamstring tightness attempting to block a cross that required Klinsmann to use his final substitution.