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Replacing suspended Jozy Altidore a tough task for USMNT ahead of Honduras clash

Whether you want to admit it or not, Jozy Altidore is an integral part of the U.S. Men’s National Team. He has a variety of skills and talents unmatched in the USMNT pool, and there are many occasions where his abilities up front open the door for the U.S. attack.

Now, Friday was not one of those matches. Altidore was a part of an ineffective USMNT group in a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica. It was a bad attacking performance all around, but the worst part? Altidore’s looming suspension for yellow card accumulation.

The TFC forward will miss Tuesday’s match against Honduras after earning a yellow card in the second half of Friday’s match. Say what you want about the disciplinary decision, and Altidore had his say, but the fact remains that the forward is out for what is certainly a must-win match.

Altidore wasn’t good against Costa Rica on Friday, but he was very, very good the last time the USMNT took on Honduras in March. The forward was credited with just one assist in the 6-0 mauling of Los Caratchos, but his game was about so much more.

Very often, Altidore has shown his desire to drop a bit deeper, hold the ball and perform as a pseudo-playmaker. He did so flawlessly back in March, helping set up three of the USMNT’s six goals. His ability to drift back opened up acres of space for Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey, who combined for four goals and two assists on the day. Pulisic and Dempsey earned the plaudits, and rightfully so, but they couldn’t have done so without Altidore’s dirty work.

That dirty work is gone for Tuesday’s rematch, and replacing it is certainly difficult. Can Bobby Wood check back and hold the ball? Sure, but Wood is at his best when he’s making more direct, targeted runs while hassling and harassing the backline. Wood is certainly a player that can play with his physical tools, but they don’t match up to Altidore’s. The TFC forward is also a more complete passer of the ball, and that was on full display with Wood’s lackluster performance on Friday.

Clint Dempsey could probably fill the role, but his style is certainly much different than that of Altidore’s. Dempsey also likes to drop deep and facilitate, making him the most likely addition to the spot. He’s not as physical as Altidore, but his technical ability does give him some edge. Is Bruce Arena prepared to utilize him for 90 minutes? In normal scenarios, it appears not, but Altidore’s suspension certainly changes the plan.

It could also change the team’s overall set-up. Arena could opt to play the Dempsey-Wood tandem as part of a standard 4-4-2, but that system was battered and broken against Costa Rica last time out. He could opt to tuck Pulisic inside and play more of a diamond like the USMNT did back in March, but it’s certainly a risk to play only one real defensive midfielder on the road, regardless of the opponent. A 4-3-3 is also on the table if Arena wants to leave Dempsey on the bench while allowing Pulisic to flourish in a more comfortable wing position.

Regardless of how Arena opts to assemble the USMNT, it’s a picture that requires reshuffling with Altidore’s absence. He has a presence that can’t truly be replaced, and Tuesday’s match becomes an even bigger test because of that fact.


  1. I don’t dislike Jozy but I have never liked a team playing a ONE DIMENSIONAL Striker. This means that the team is handicapped by a person who is only a half-soccer player. Only if a striker is as lethal as the prior German Gerhard Mueller (the Bomber) would it be a very rare exception in using such a striker. Furthermore, Deutschland won at least one world cup where the coach including JK chose to play KLOSE, a very good and all-around talented soccer player and striker, versus his playing partner GOMEZ, a tall and stiff striker who mainly was waiting in front for his teammates to provide a perfect pass. I saw Gomez play today (because he has been scoring goals again lately) and he even put in a nice head ball today. However, I still don’t like such a limited striker/soccer player because he handicaps his team!!

  2. Not a Jozy fan. This is actually a blessing in disguise. Would rather see the young ones (Acosta, Arriola) provide chances via the midfield with their speed and enthusiasm. Good luck USA.

  3. Being brutally honest the most important thing Josy brings is his dives in and around the box. Dempsey likes to dive as well but he’s just not as good as altidore.

  4. I think this article gives too much credit to Altidore, sure he is 3rd all time scoring for us but let us remember when he was bad for almost a whole year he was still getting a starting spot under JK. Jozy is there to score and he seldom does it at the international level against a quality opponent, he is not the type of player that can create his own shot or beat anyone in a foot race, he needs to be served to have a chance. So, we that in mind, it was a major mistake for Arena to play 2 CF because that means you have one less player to service the forwards.

    • Here are some of the teams Jozy has scored against:
      Bosnia (3)
      Nigeria (2)
      Costa Rica
      That’s 1/3 of his goals against teams that have very good reputations.

      Yes, 23 have come against Concacaf, but that is mostly who we play. He is second all time in qualifying goals behind Dempsey.

      His bad for a whole year at the club level translated into 8 goals for the US and his bad for the US in 2012 was his best club season for AZ.

      The only guy that you can make a case to replace him with is Wood who scored 8 goals in 24 matches the last two years, Jozy has scored 8 in 19 matches.

      I think Wood is the likely replacement for Jozy maybe even by next Summer, but to continue the false narrative that Jozy isn’t the best pure striker we have currently is ignoring the facts. Even more ridiculous is the idea others have that Sargent or Wright should be replacing him now.

      • The anti-Jozy people seem to think they know more about soccer than JK, Arena, Toronto FC executives, Earnie Stewart, and numerous people who spend their lives in the game. Belief, as we see in politics, isn’t fazed by actual facts, so Johnnyrazor , you’re probably wasting your time trying to convince them with actual facts.

      • And let me add a final comment, the CR game where he scored was in the off-year of the Gold Cup of 2017, that CR team was missing 6 starters big difference from the team that beat us.

  5. In thinking about this team, what is so frustrating is that, based on their club careers, this is easily the most accomplished group of players in US history and the most accomplished in CONCACAF, ahead of even Mexico. In the last game, 7 of our starters either are playing regularly in a top 4 league or have done so previously. And that’s with 2 others, Brooks and Yedlin, missing. In reviewing the CR game in my head, I think one problem is that the US is too soft. As JK said a long time ago, they need to get more nasty. Too many times CR just out muscled them for the ball. How many times did the US make tactical fouls to break up attacks? None that I can recall. This is one reason why Dempsey needs to be included. And in the next round, we need to bring back JJ because of their “refuse to lose” mentality. A draw is vital in this next game, so we should come out in a conservative line-up. I would play a 4-5-1, with Wood up top; and Dempsey as sort of a withdrawn forward. I would replace Nagbe with Acosta so we have 2 defensive mids. Then, in case of a turnover, you can send Dempsey, FJ, and CP22 forward to join Wood in counter attacks. And please, start Besler or Gonzalez instead of Ream and don’t let Lichaj anywhere near the pitch.

    • You lost me there. Accomplished? How so? How many league titles do they have between them? Mexican players on the starting lineup have between them 2 Premier League titles, 1 Community Shield, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, 1 Olympic Gold Medal, 1 Spanish Super Cup, 2 Portuguese League Titles, 1 Portuguese Cup, 3 Eredivisie Titles, and 1 FIFA U17 World Cup. How many important titles does the accomplished US lineup have? 1 DFB-Pokal, 1 FA Cup (back in 2003), FA Community Shield (also 2003… I didn’t even include Marquez in the count above since that’s dating back a bit, but happy to throw in Howard’s awards). Thats pretty much it.Costa Rica also has more accomplishments. They have 1 Eredivisie, 1 La Liga title, 2 Champions Leagues, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 1 Fifa Club World Cup. And they made it to the QF last WC. Looks to me like there are two teams with more accomplished players than the US in Concacaf.


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