The United States have received a major boost heading into their round-of-16 match against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, as striker Jozy Altidore is "ready and available" to play on Tuesday.
U.S. Soccer announced the positive news via Twitter on Monday:
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated weighed in on whether Altidore would start against Belgium:
US Soccer says Jozy Altidore is available for USA-Belgium. I'd still be surprised if he starts.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 30, 2014
Altidore was forced out of his team's opening match against Ghana in the group stage after coming up lame in the first half with a hamstring injury.
There wasn't much speculation regarding the severity of the injury when it first happened, as it certainly didn't look pretty. He was in the midst of a run down the left sideline before crumbling to the pitch and requiring immediate attention.
While Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and other American players have done well in Altidore's absence, the fact that he is fit to play against Belgium is crucial to the team's success in the knockout stage.
Will Altidore lead the U.S. to victory over Belgium?
Belgium are a quality team with multiple players they can turn to in big situations. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard knows that the Americans face a tough test, via Raf Casert of The Associated Press: "We need to find a way to bottle up their key players, but they have so many of them. It will be difficult."
While defense should be the focus for the Americans in this pivotal match, Altidore will be focused on making his presence felt offensively. Jurgen Klinsmann's team has lacked punch without him on the pitch, scoring just four goals in group play, and the fact that he's fit might be exactly what they need to surprise the world against Belgium with a stronger attack.
Keeping him fit in the long run is also crucial, so it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann utilizes Altidore against Belgium.
This is the best possible news for the Americans heading into the round of 16. After watching multiple teams fail because of a lack of offense, Klinsmann can now run his best team out on the pitch. With Altidore available, the Americans can make a surprising run in Brazil.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR