Why Jozy Altidore Will be USA's Most Important Player in 2014 World Cup

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

KINGSTON, JAMAICA - JUNE 07:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the USAduring the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier at National Stadium on June 7, 2013 in Kingston, Jamaica.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Now that qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is an afterthought for the United States men's national team, their full focus is set on making a lasting impact next summer in South America. 

One of the main keys to American success in Brazil will be the play of forward Jozy Altidore, who in the last year has cemented himself as the primary goalscorer for the Yanks at the international level. 

Ever since finding his form at AZ Alkmaar during the 2012-13 season, Altidore has earned himself a permanent starting position in Jurgen Klinsmann's ever-changing starting 11 that can never be accurately predicted. 

Altidore, who for close to two years was in an international scoring drought of epic proportions, began to score at will over the summer, and when all was said and done, he racked up eight goals from June on in friendlies against Germany and Bosnia as well as a bevy of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches. 

As we have seen in the most recent United States games, reliance on a single player at a certain position, in the latest case Michael Bradley in the defensive midfield, can come back to haunt the team.

When Bradley suffered a pregame ankle injury against Costa Rica back on September 6, the Yanks' holding midfielders could not get a solid grasp on the match and that helped lead to the American demise in San Jose that night. 

Luckily for the Americans, they were able to recover well from the Bradley injury and see a few players step up when called upon in the games after that against Mexico, Jamaica and Panama. 

That may not be the case if Altidore goes down with an injury or continues his putrid club form with Sunderland in the English Premier League.

In just seven league appearances for the Wearside club, Altidore has failed to find the back of the net.

His form could drop even more if he fails to score goals and other forwards at the club like Steven Fletcher do net goals in the chase to stave off what looks to be a relegation down to the Championship. 

Altidore's poor club form could easily transfer over to the international stage, and that could be loads of trouble for a United States side looking to make more noise than a vuvuzela when they venture down to Brazil. 

Looking at the options on the bench to replace Altidore, there is some promise but not much experience in the form of Aron Johannsson, who has 12 goals this season as Altidore's replacement at AZ. 

The second and most logical choice to replace Altidore up front would be Eddie Johnson, who as we all know has a rocky past in regard to form at the highest level of the game. 

Trusting Johnson to score goals at the World Cup is something that Klinsmann must be hoping and praying that he will not have to do. 

If the Americans get extremely desperate, a forward pairing of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could get thrown together, but those two players work well in the midfield and in the No. 10 role just behind the forward in the 4-2-3-1 instead of as the lone target man. 

While American fans would love to put their full backing behind a sexy backup option like Johannsson at this point, no one really knows what he is capable of at the World Cup given his rather minuscule amount of time with the Yanks so far. 

Altidore is now an established goalscorer at the international level; to have a player like that in great form going into Brazil would make the Americans a bigger threat than they already are. 

Unfortunately for the fate of American soccer, Altidore's form does not look like it is skyrocketing anytime soon. With a new manager at Sunderland in the form of Gus Poyet, he could easily find his way out of the starting 11 sooner rather than later. 

With all that being said, the United States could manage to get by without an in-form Altidore in Brazil, but it could also bring back memories of 2006 where the Americans were battered in group play and managed to score just two goals on their way to an unexpected early exit in Germany. 

Klinsmann does have the option of using a kid with no fear who is in form or a wily veteran looking to finally prove himself when it matters most, but in all honestly the German manager will sleep better at night knowing that he has Altidore in form and ready to go for Brazil.

Do you think Jozy Altidore is the key to the United States' success in Brazil?

Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.