Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team were staring at a 2-0 deficit at halftime of their match against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Wednesday, and their 11-game unbeaten streak was in serious jeopardy.
Then, Jozy Altidore changed all that with one of the more dominant performances in recent U.S. history.
Altidore helped the U.S. pull off an improbable comeback, scoring a second-half hat-trick that included a splendid free kick goal while also adding an assist in a 4-3 victory in Sarajevo. The impressive rally saw the Americans extend their record winning streak to 12 games while also giving them their first come-from-behind win on European soil.
Altidore’s heroics, which made him the first U.S. player to score in five straight games, spoiled a two-goal performance from Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko. The Manchester City striker netted the opener in the seventh minute and scored late to make things interesting again after the U.S. had pushed four unanswered past the hosts in the second half.
A pair of young and inexperienced Americans contributed to the impressive result, as Aron Johannsson and John Brooks made their debuts for the United States. Brooks started and went the distance while Johannsson came off the bench to provide a spark for a U.S. team that struggled mightily in the first half.
Starting the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Americans were unable to create much in the way of scoring chances in the first half and were plagued with sloppy turnovers. One such giveaway from Eddie Johnson led to the opener from Dzeko, who scored off his own rebound after U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard had initially stopped him.
The hosts then doubled their advantage at the half-hour mark, as former St. Louis University player Vedad Ibisevic nodded a cross from the right flank past Howard. The Americans had cleared the initial cross, but Bosnia recovered the ball and whipped in another that Ibisevic beat centerback Geoff Cameron to.
Trailing by two goals, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann altered his tactics by going with a 4-4-2 to start the second half. The results were almost immediate as in the 54th minute Michael Bradley, who also enjoyed a strong performance for the Americans, hit a sublime ball over the top to Altidore. The veteran forward brought the ball down and into the path of Johnson, who made up for his earlier mistake by scoring easily into the open net.
Four minutes later, Altidore turned from provider to goal-scorer to bring the U.S. level. Altidore scored his first of the game on clinical left-footed finish to the far post following a short diagonal pass from Fabian Johnson, who had moved into the left midfield spot at the beginning of the second half after starting the match at left back.
Altidore was not done, however. He bent a wicked free kick from about 25 yards out past Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and into the top corner of the net in the 84th minute to put the U.S. up for good, and then capped his incredible showing with a low finish following a nifty pass from Bradley two minutes later.
Howard also impressed in the closing 45 minutes, making a number of fine saves to keep the Americans from falling behind again before Dzeko beat him with a header in the 90th minute to make the scoreline close again.
The U.S. will now set their sights towards their next round of World Cup qualifiers in September. The Americans visit Costa Rica on Sept. 6 before hosting arch-rival Mexico four days later.
What do you think of the Americans’ 4-3 win over Bosnia? How impressed are you by the comeback and Altidore’s performance? Which U.S. players do you think showed well?
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