Fifteen minutes. That is all it took for the U.S. Men’s National Team to turn Saturday’s embarrassment at the hands of Spain into nothing more than a bump in the road during an international friendly.
When Jozy Altidore found the back of the net 15 minutes into the Americans’ game against Canada in Tuesday night’s opening match of group play in the Gold Cup, everything that happened on the field against Spain was forgotten.
And while Altidore was aided by Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, who probably should have made the stop, the goal took the focus away from the Spain game and put it back where it belongs – on the Gold Cup.
Altidore, a 21-year-old striker, also had a hand in the second goal, sending in a cross from the right side of the net that Clint Dempsey put home with a sweet sliding finish for his 20th international goal.
Altidore’s goal against Canada was his first in a competitive international since September 2009 and he only scored once all season for his club team, Bursaspor in the Turkish league.
“For confidence, it was a good thing,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said in published reports. “The movement that led to the first goal and the cross to Dempsey for the second both were great plays.”
The Americans are going to need Altidore to be a force on offense if they expect to have any success in this tournament. With Javier Hernandez coming off a strong season with Manchester United and scoring a hat-trick for Mexico in its opening game, the U.S. needs someone to match that firepower if they are going to take the Gold Cup title back.
Of course, if Tim Howard plays the way he did in goal against Canada for the rest of the tournament, it may not matter how many goals the U.S. scores.
The Everton keeper was outstanding, deflecting Ali Gerba’s shot from the edge of the penalty area in the 70th minute, then pulling off a double save in the 85th minute – first going to the ground to stop Joshua Simpson then denying Gerba for the second time.
“At this level, whether it is the Premier League or an international, you aren’t going to go a whole game without giving up chances,” Howard said in published reports. “They had one down the side and one on a goal-mouth scramble. That will happen.”
The win extends the U.S.’ unbeaten streak in group play of the tournament to 26 games (24-0-2). The Americans will put that streak on the line Saturday night against Panama in the next Group C game. Get by Panama, and the U.S. will have what should be an easy game against Guadalupe to close out the group and set themselves up nicely for the knockout stage.
They need to be careful, though, because as they proved against Canada, things can change in a matter of minutes.