Jozy Altidore's Return Will Be the Difference for Team USA to Get Past Belgium

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Jozy Altidore's Return Will Be the Difference for Team USA to Get Past Belgium
USA TODAY Sports

After getting out of the Group of Death, the United States will be taking on Belgium in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. While the matchup may be a tough one, the return of Jozy Altidore should be the difference for Team USA to advance to the quarterfinals.

The U.S. Soccer Twitter account made the announcement that Altidore will be ready for Tuesday's match against Belgium.

The United States have sorely missed Altidore, even if they were able to advance without him. The talented 24-year-old striker hasn't played since the team's first game in the World Cup against Ghana, exiting in the 21st minute due to a hamstring strain. While he may be back, coach Jurgen Klinsmann didn't specify how much he would play on Tuesday.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"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," Klinsmann said, according to Dan Wetzel from Yahoo Sports.

"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."

Even if he doesn't play a significant amount of time, Altidore should help the team get through Belgium.

The offense showed some promise without Altidore in their match against Portugal, scoring two goals. However, that was against a questionable defense, and they were unable to get anything against Germany in their final match of group play. In fact, they were only able to get four shots on target and just one on goal against Germany, clearly missing Altidore's presence.

Heading into the World Cup, Altidore was expected to be the talented forward on the attack that Team USA has been lacking for quite some time. Along with the size and strength to send powerful shots at the goal, he's shown he can create some beautiful opportunities. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he had four goals in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

Still, Altidore won't be able to it alone, especially because he'll likely only play limited minutes. Belgium aren't a team to ignore, either, as they won all three of their group-stage matches while allowing just one goal. According to Squawka Football, Belgium have the seventh-best performance score in the field of play, while Team USA are No. 19.

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Belgium have plenty of young talent with names like Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, but they also lack experience. This team could be one of the best in the next World Cup, but they haven't had a real test after playing in a pretty easy Group H. They will also be without Thomas Vermaelen while Vincent Kompany is doubtful for Tuesday, according to FIFA.com, which could hurt the team quite a bit.

The United States haven't been the team they could have been offensively so far, ranking 28th among all World Cup teams with just nine shots per game,, according to WhoScored.com. However, with Altidore returning, even on limited time, the offense should find its rhythm once again and be able to get through Belgium, even if it's a close one.

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