Jozy Altidore to captain U.S. Wednesday against Czech Republic

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Jozy Altidore is only 24 years old, but having broke into the U.S. Men’s National Team in his teens, the Sunderland striker has already accumulated 71 international appearances – the type of track record that puts him in position to claim the captaincy when the team’s regular leadership is gone. On Wednesday, with Clint Dempsey back in Seattle and Tim Howard on sabbatical, Altidore will assume that role on in Prague, when he will lead the U.S. out of the tunnel against the Czech Republic.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann confirmed the news today from the Czech Republic, where his team will face Czechs in its first appearance since this summer’s World Cup:

Dempsey, the team’s normal captain, was left off a team that only called in one player from Major League Soccer. While Howard would normally be the logical replacement in a Europe-heavy squad, the Everton goalkeeper recently embarked on a  year-long break from the national team. With players like Michael Bradley having move back to North America over the last year, Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest team is devoid of its normal leadership.

Altidore is the one exception. Having debuted with the team as a 17-year-old in 2007, the former New York Red Bulls, Villarreal, and AZ Alkmaar striker has become one of the team’s most tenured players. Thanks to a starting role at two World Cups, Altidore as a level of experience that belies his age. With still two more World Cup cycles left in his career, Altidore already has 23 international goals, good for sixth on the U.S. Men’s all-time list.

With Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley left at home, Altidore is the obvious choice to assume the armband. On a team where Alejandro Bedoya is the next-most capped player (32), he may also be the only choice.

For critics, Altidore has become defined by his struggles at Sunderland, but for some players, there’s only a tenuous link between the club and international worlds. Though he continues to fight for time with the Black Cats, Altidore is an crucial part of the U.S., one whose absence was felt in Brazil.

It may only be an early cycle friendly, but Altidore’s earned this recognition. He’s the best choice to lead the Americans out in Prague.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)