BOSTON—What a difference two months has made for Jozy Altidore.
At the end of June, he was off the US national team’s Gold Cup squad, heading home after struggling to find his form and fitness in the group stage while recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in May.
Altidore remained healthy through the rest of the summer, which was interrupted by a petulant red card at New England (August 1), scoring only one goal in his first six games played after returning to Toronto.
But the Toronto FC man has come alive, riding one of his patented hot streaks. Altidore has scored three goals in his past two club outings – both off the bench – and added two more in Friday's 90-minute outing for the USMNT against Peru.
The upswing in form, which comes ahead of a marquee test against Brazil on Tuesday (8 pm ET, ESPN2, UniMás, UDN) might well be related to approaching the peak of his physical ability.
“He’s simply physically on a really different level then when he came in for the Gold Cup," said US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann at Monday's Harvard University training session. "He was just not there (then).
"(Jozy) worked himself back, he tried hard, did extra shifts with his club and when he came in now you could see that. He’s fresh, he’s explosive, he’s hungry and because of that he’s in a better state of mind.”
Veteran midfielder Michael Bradley, Altidore's teammate with both the national team and Toronto FC, bore witness to Altidore's recovery efforts, and pre-empted anyone who might question Altidore’s commitment or form following the tough summer.
“Let’s not make more out of it all than it needs to be,” Bradley said. “He came into the Gold Cup this summer in a good frame of mind, determined to make a difference. Physically, he was still a little bit behind just in terms of his recovery from an injury. … It wasn’t anything more than that. He worked very hard to try and get himself back so he could make a difference for the tournament.
“When you have a hamstring injury like that it’s always going to take a little bit of time; that’s life. But his mentality, his confidence, his commitment to the team – that part never wavers. Whether you guys think he’s in great form or not, whether he’s scoring goals or not, he’s a guy who is in it for the team and gives us so much.”
Though Altidore has downplayed questions about his confidence, after Friday's brace against Peru the striker did sound relieved to not only play, but also succeed. That may have no small effect on his return to form.
“Confidence, confidence – you love talking about that, huh?” said Altidore, after that game. "Man, look, I’m just happy to get back out there. I felt much better on the field, obviously, coming off the injury; I feel much better now.”