US Soccer hoping to find reason for Altidore’s leg injuries

AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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MIAMI SHORES, Fla. (AP) Jozy Altidore‘s hamstring injuries are happening far too often for anyone’s liking, and U.S. Soccer is trying to find a way to solve the problem.

Altidore will almost certainly miss the Copa America tournament that starts next month with what’s at least his fourth significant hamstring problem in the last five years. His latest setback came last weekend, when he got hurt while taking a penalty kick for Toronto in its Major League Soccer match against Vancouver.

So when the U.S. men’s national team convened for a training camp on a steamy Tuesday morning at Barry University in South Florida, Altidore wasn’t there – and might not be on any other fields for the next two months, either.

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“It’s definitely an issue that kind of follows him,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s something we’re all working hard on to get to the bottom of, to find the cause for these hamstring injuries. Where does this really come from? Is it training-related? Is it environmentally related? Is this lifestyle-related? A medical issue? Where does this come from? And hopefully all the people working with him find the cause … sooner than later.”

Training camp this week is four days of practices and meetings to prepare for an exhibition at Puerto Rico on Sunday.

Altidore was impacted by hamstring problems in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Gold Cup and now will likely face the same fate for Copa America – a tournament the U.S. will host. Given that it’s at home, Klinsmann is telling players the Copa is a once-in-a-career opportunity and a possible precursor to another World Cup on American soil.

“It’s a huge bummer for all of us, especially for Jozy,” Klinsmann said. “He had so much drive and ambitions going toward Copa America. He was preparing himself the entire year, starting in January and he just hoped to peak in June for this very special tournament.”

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Some of Altidore’s teammates didn’t know the severity of the injury until late Monday night.

“It’s a blow, of course,” said American midfielder Ale Bedoya, who like Altidore is a South Florida native. “He’s one of our key players, one of our best strikers. But like with every team, injuries happen. They’re part of the game. We’re just going to have to deal with it and move on. It’s another opportunity for other players to step in and prove their worth and help us out.”

And in this camp, that could be Bobby Wood – one of the likely candidates to pair with Clint Dempsey on the forward line for Copa America.

Wood scored 17 goals this season in Germany, a single-season record for a U.S. international playing there, and that earned him a transfer to Hamburg SV in the German Bundesliga.

Klinsmann told him before the season that it could be a make-or-break year for Wood, and apparently the young forward listened.

“Suddenly you’re in an adult world and you have to bring out your elbows,” Klinsmann said. “I think Bobby learned to bring out his elbows.”

NOTES: Klinsmann said he had no concerns about taking the team to Puerto Rico, where the Zika virus is a concern. A Major League Baseball series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins, scheduled for later this month, was moved out of San Juan over those worries. “Nope. We travel a lot,” Klinsmann said. … Brad Guzan and Tim Howard are both in camp, and Klinsmann said he would “have good talks” with both goalies over the next couple days. … Wood and defender John Brooks were the only players missing from the 22-man roster at the first practice of camp Tuesday, both because of travel reasons. They’re expected to be on the field Wednesday morning.