In the months since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Jozy Altidore has been a source of much frustration for United States men’s soccer fans. Tonight he showed America why his Coach Bob Bradley continues to have faith in him. Altidore notched a goal and set up another as the United States overwhelmed Canada 2-0 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan to open the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The US had at least one surprise starter in the squad. Tim Ream, a rising star for Red Bull New York, earned his first cap in a major competition starting at central defense. While Altidore wasn’t a surprise inclusion in the squad, there were those who thought that he had not been competitive in recent matches for his country.
The New Jersey native proved them wrong. In the fifteenth minute, Altidore ran onto a through ball placed perfectly in the area by Landon Donovan. Altidore surprised Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld by turning and shooting from about 14 yards, and the ball skittered away from the keeper into the net, and gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead.
The United States dominated most of the first half, allowed by a passive Canadian team to enjoy too much time with the ball. Canada only attempted three shots in the opening 45 minutes. Dwayne DeRosario’s curling shot from 25 yards slid just past the far post, and was the Canucks’ best opportunity to equalize before the half.
In the second half, Canada came out inspired. For ten minutes, they enjoyed possession in the offensive half, but could not manage a shot on net before the Americans added to their lead.
The 55th minute saw Altidore nearly pick up his second, on a beautifully weighted cross by Michael Bradley. He mistimed his jump and could not put his head to the ball. 7 minutes later though, he received a pass from Donovan into space in the area. Altidore struck a low cross for striker Juan Agudelo, who couldn’t get full contact on the ball with his foot. As it continued through the 6 yard box, Clint Dempsey slid and his foot knocked the ball past Hirschfeld to give the US a two goal cushion.
From that point forward, the game became an opportunity for US keeper Tim Howard to shine. In the final twenty minutes, he managed to stop three high-quality Canadian shots. Two of those were blistering strikes from substitute Ali Gerba, the second a hard shot from 7 yards that should have found goal if not for Howard’s quick reflexes.
The match came on the heels of a lackluster defeat to Spain in suburban Boston over the weekend, eliciting worry from supporters and pundits alike. The Yanks asserted themselves against an opponent that, while still formidable, missed standout holding midfielder Julian De Guzman.
As for Ream, the young defender, his night was mixed. He made several quality defensive plays, but he was also beaten a couple of times by the gifted Canadian forwards. But as with any player learning the ropes, it always helps to have some experience around you, and players like captain Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, and Steve Cherundolo did just that. While he had his struggles, all in all it was a successful foray for Ream into meaningful international competition.
The US is now second in Group C, a goal scored behind Panama first in Group C, better on goal differential than Panama. They will face the Red Tide on Saturday night, in a match to be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.