Jozy Altidore

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-0 D.C. United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Even in the games where Sebastian Giovinco isn’t scoring goals, he’s still making a huge impact for Toronto FC. The Italian playmaker recorded two assists on Saturday night en route to TFC’s 2-0 win over D.C. United, who managed just one shot on target throughout the match. TFC sits atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings with 32 points through 16 matches. Meanwhile, D.C. remains at the bottom of the East on 15 points in as many fixtures.

Three two moments that mattered

60′ — Giovinco finds Altidore: Sound familiar? — Is there any better duo up front in MLS? They make it look so easy. 

 

60′ — Hamilton seals it for the league leaders — That’s two assists on the night for Sebastian Giovinco.

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Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Jozy Altidore (60′), Jordan Hamilton (85′)

How will the USMNT lineup versus Trinidad and Tobago?

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Bruce Arena’s men didn’t look so hot on Saturday, a 1-1 home draw against a Venezuela side that won’t be terrifying too many hosts in the near future (granted their U-20 side looks quite good).

But the players’ rationale for the tough night made enough sense; Arena has them training and playing at altitude in preparation for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado, and Sunday night’s test at Azteca against Mexico.

Plus, the Yanks were experimenting. Forget for a moment that the previous administration would be torn to bits for “experimenting on the eve of important games.” That’s for another post. But the Americans simply have to win their home qualifiers, especially have thrown one away already.

The good news is that the Yanks are fairly healthy. John Brooks could be a big loss if he cannot play, but the rest came through the friendly relatively unscathed.

Tim Howard was exceptional on Saturday, and the backs should remain unchanged outside of Brooks’ fitness test. Geoff Cameron only went 45 minutes versus Venezuela, and both Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin played well on the outside.

Michael Bradley struggled again, and at best was unspectacular. But Arena is not going to go away from his captain, and Christian Pulisic is an absolute certainty, too. Jozy Altidore is back with the team following a family obligation, and both Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood seem certain to feature.

It remains to be seen whether Arena though Darlington Nagbe did enough to insure he stays in the mix, and Clint Dempsey‘s very off night could cost him playing time with Altidore’s health. Could it be as simple as this?

Howard

Yedlin – Cameron – Hedges – Villafana

Bradley

Nagbe – Pulisic – Johnson

Altidore – Wood

That means there could only be one change, Altidore for Dempsey, should Brooks return to health by Thursday.

Arena may choose Omar Gonzalez over Hedges given their long history with the LA Galaxy.

The manager could also move Alejandro Bedoya or Kellyn Acosta for Nagbe, or even use Dempsey there. It does seem like the 34-year-old Dempsey won’t go 90 in three-straight matches, and Arena may prefer to save him for Azteca.

Jozy Altidore’s presence missed in USMNT draw with Venezuela

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International friendlies are all about learning. With just days to go before the United States faces another crucial pair of World Cup qualifiers, Bruce Arena experimented a bunch against Venezuela with the idea that he can learn plenty about his current squad.

The 1-1 draw featured heavy United States possession, but nary a true look on goal. As Arena put it, “the final product wasn’t very good.”

The main reason for this? The absence of Jozy Altidore.

[ MORE: 3 more things we learned from the 1-1 draw with Venezuela ]

Altidore, the 3rd-leading scorer in USMNT history, was absent from the squad at Rio Tinto Stadium after missing the early portion of camp due to his brother’s wedding. Therefore, Arena left him out, instead pairing Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood up front in one of those aforementioned experiments. While both Dempsey and Wood are quality players and both showed flashes of usefulness throughout the game, they are also far too similar in style to form an effective partnership at this stage. Both are speedy strikers who make runs through the defense, but neither has the true strength to allow others to get into space.

Clint Dempsey and the USMNT attack struggled mightily in the final third against Venezuela (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images).

Jozy’s hold-up play was the biggest missing piece for the United States against Venezuela, and while he has taken plenty of heat during his time with the international squad (sometimes deserved, sometimes not), Altidore is a critical piece of this USMNT squad, never more evident than just outside Salt Lake City last night.

If the United States is to take a positive points haul against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, they will need Altidore at his best up front, not only scoring goals but also to help turn possession into danger up front, something the US was unable to do against Venezuela. Altidore is often judged by his ability to score goals for the US, but that is not nearly his only contribution to the squad.

Introducing Jozy Altidore back into the starting lineup most likely would see Bobby Wood the odd man out in a fully healthy squad, which is an unfortunate loss, but he and Dempsey simply do not provide enough variance up front. Wood will get plenty of chances in the future with Dempsey’s time eventually up, and he offers a speedy, dangerous option off the bench for the final 20 minutes of an even game.

The bottom line is that, despite his sometimes divisive stance with USMNT fans, the United States needs Jozy Altidore. That was blatantly obvious through 90 minutes in Sandy, Utah.

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 1-2 Toronto FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): If Toronto can keep this pace up, they may very well avenge their MLS Cup loss from a season ago. Even without Sebastian Giovinco on Wednesday night, Greg Vanney’s side managed to take care of business at MAPFRE Stadium courtesy of Tosaint Ricketts and his nine-minute brace to close the match. The Canadian veteran came on in the first half as a substitute but his performance after the halftime break made all the difference for TFC, recording two of the teams three shots on target (both of which were goals). Despite an overwhelming amount of chances early on from Federico Higuain and the Crew attack, Greg Berhalter and co. will remain second in the Eastern Conference on 18 points, while TFC tops the East with 22 points in 11 matches.

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 6 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]

Three four moments that mattered

28′ — Higuain converts from the spot — The Argentine shows some serious class with this panenka from the penalty spot.

38′ — Steffen closes the door on Jozy — “Not so fast Jozy,” Zack Steffen (probably)…

81′ — Ricketts rescues a point for TFC — Talk about efficiency. One header and one goal for the first-half substitute.

90′ — But wait… there’s more from Tosaint — No Giovinco, no problem for the visitors. Gotta say it’s pretty poor defending from the Crew though to close the match.

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Men of the match: Tosaint Ricketts

Goalscorers: Federico Higuain — PK (28′), Tosaint Ricketts (81′, 90′)

MLS Snapshot: A bit of Cup revenge for Altidore, TFC over Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): MLS Cup 2016 revenge on their minds, and the absence of Sebastian Giovinco (rest) seemingly set to make life more difficult, Toronto FC were completely unfazed by Saturday’s trip to Seattle to take on the reigning champions. In truth, it was hardly a revelation — more of a continuation — for Greg Vanney’s side which extended its current winning streak to four games and kept its fifth clean sheet of the season (just two goals conceded during the four-game run). It’s that defensive solidity which has propelled TFC (19 points from 10 games) to the top spot in the hotly contested Eastern Conference, a point ahead of Orlando City SC (who have played two fewer games). Benoit Cheyrou turned in a stellar performance in midfield (5 tackles won, 3 interceptions and 3 clearances) to lighten the load of defensive duties thrust upon a reworked four-man backline. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal, from the penalty spot after winning the chance himself, and the well-drilled, organized defense held up for the full 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Week 10 preview — LA to bounce back against Chicago? ]

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Morris heads home, but the flag goes up — Gustav Svensson made and obvious play on the ball as it bounded toward the far post, clearly affecting Clint Irwin’s movement across the face of goal. It’s a decision which requires the assistant referee to observe and interpret multiple actions all at once.

23′ — Torres clatters into Altidore; it’s a penalty — Altidore continues to be involved and productive for TFC, as the USMNT striker bagged his 21st goal (to go with 10 assists — 31 games, regular season and playoffs) since bagging his first goal last season, on July 31.

40′ — Frei goes high to deny Altidore — Again, here’s Altidore creating his own shot and half-chance, though Frei gets up to palm his effort over the crossbar.

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Man of the match: Benoit Cheyrou

Goalscorers: Altidore (PK – 23′)