Jozy Altidore missed United States' last group stage match against Germany through injury, but the striker looks set to return to the squad for their 2014 FIFA World Cup round of 16 clash against Belgium on Tuesday.
Yahoo.com report that Altidore has recovered from his hamstring strain and will be available off the bench, should coach Jurgen Klinsmann feel the need to call on his talents. As per Yahoo, Klinsmann is delighted to be able to include the striker in his plans:
We don’t know how much [Altidore will play] because we didn't see how things were going, but he's available. And this is what we wanted. This is what we hoped for. The medical staff has been working with Jozy and they have done a tremendous job, day and night. Just having him with us tomorrow is huge. But as for how many minutes, we'll see that during the game.
With so many of the World Cup games to date being settled late on, having good options to come off the bench could be key for both sides, and Altidore may be one of the most effective for USA in what is likely to be a tight contest.
Klinsmann went with a five-man midfield in the final group game against Germany, with the emphasis very much on containment for that particular fixture.
Thanks to Portugal's win over Ghana, the defeat against the Germans didn't ultimately matter too much, which was perhaps just as well as there were not too many moments when United States looked as though they could break down Germany.
Against Belgium, the smart money would be on Klinsmann starting with a similar set-up, though with more inclination and licence for two or three of the midfielders to support starting forward Clint Dempsey.
Belgium and United States, given the form and results shown at the finals by both nations, should be a very close game. Belgium have the more naturally gifted players, especially in the final third, but they have not yet clicked as a team and have been stilted and slow in their buildup play at times. Often it has been their substitutes which have turned the game in their favour.
United States are well-organised, hard working and very aggressive off the ball with their positioning and trying to win back possession.
If they can make use of that by tying it to a quicker transition game than we saw against Germany, it could be a way through the Belgian back-line—and that's where Altidore will be of paramount importance later in the game.
Barely recovered from a hamstring strain, it would be a surprise if Altidore was running at 100 percent—but even so, his pace and power and willingness to run the channels will be a massive bonus for the US.
Despite their strong defensive arrangement, USA struggled to bring numbers into play in the final third against Germany, and Altidore's ability to hold up the ball and play short link passes with the likes of Dempsey could signal a big improvement in that regard.
In that respect it almost doesn't matter if United States are trailing or ahead in the last 20 minutes or so; they'll want to get the ball forward in either case, with Jozy capable of being a direct outball, a constant harasser of the Belgian defence and, of course, a potential goal threat.
Consensus seems to be Altidore should start against Belgium. In agreement. Against strong Belgian backline, you need athleticism like that.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 27, 2014
US Soccer says Jozy Altidore is available for USA-Belgium. I'd still be surprised if he starts.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 30, 2014
Jozy Altidore available to play is HUGE. Even if he doesn't take pitch, something for #BEL to think about.— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) June 30, 2014
The latter hasn't been a frequent label for the striker this calendar year, but two goals pre-tournament should have boosted his confidence and if he can have the kind of impact off the bench for United States that the likes of Divock Origi and Dries Mertens have for rivals Belgium, then the US World Cup party could yet be set to continue into the last eight.