Amid the same press conference where Jurgen Klinsmann passed along the good news about Matt Besler, there was little new information about an equally pressing pressing concern. For all the uncertainty the U.S. experienced at the back on Monday once their starting center back left at halftime, the team was just as aimless at the top of its formation, where a 21st minute hamstring injury to starting striker Jozy Altidore forced Aron Johannsson into the game. Over the 69 minutes that followed, the U.S. missed its outlet man, struggling to pass through midfield as it kept the ball on the ground.
Unfortunately for Altidore, his hamstring injury is more severe than Besler’s, though the exact extent of the problem is unknown. With what’s become a trademark if positive coyness, Klinsmann managed to talk about his striker’s plight without providing specifics on the injury, let along a potential recovery.
“We’ve got to see how he now reacts the next couple of days with his hamstring, and we’re full of hope that he comes back still in the tournament …”
“That’s what we’re going to work on every day. The medical staff is doing a tremendous job [for] weeks, so we still have the hope that Jozy will be back. How quickly, that is down to his healing process.”
Assume you didn’t see the way Altidore went down on Monday and are hoping he’ll be ready on Sunday. See anything in Klinsmann’s response that eliminates that possibility? Or, for that matter, describes it as improbably, likely, or any place on our uncertain spectrum? Perhaps the allusion to “in the tournament” does, but thanks to the head coach’s coyness, somebody could convince themselves the Altidore will play against Portugal.
Put yourself on the other end of that see-saw, though. Assume you saw the injury, think the hamstring’s done, and Altidore’s not coming back this tournament.
Now re-read Klinsmann’s quote. There’s nothing there that precludes that scenario, too. As it concerns Altidore’s injury, Klinsmann’s words are basically useless.
Don’t blame Klinsmann for that. If anything, respect him (and if not him, then his job). He’s trying to obscure the picture.
The U.S. boss went on to admit as much, though in doing to, he fully engaged the prospect of a Jozy-less future:
“I don’t want to go too deep into details, because obviously we want Portugal to guess a little bit as well, but when one of your key players is not available, does it change certain things? Absolutely, it does.
Jozy is a very strong key player in our group, so we’ll think about the right way to handle that situation.
We’ll still field 11. We’re not a man down.”
After reading all that, you probably have a gut feeling about whether Altidore plays. Of course, I have my own. Start with the caution we saw Klinsmann use toward Besler, add in the possible severity of Altidore’s injury, and I think he’s out. I think he’s way out. Not only do I not see Altidore featuring for Portugal, I doubt we’ll see him against Germany, either. If he comes back at all this tournament, I’ll be slightly surprised.
Do I know that with any certainty? Of course not. Klinsmann’s intent on making sure nobody knows if Jozy Altidore will be ready for Manaus. Given the information can only help the Portuguese prepare, you can’t blame him for leaving us in the dark.