The United States men’s soccer team is back in action on Tuesday in their first game of the 2014 World Cup’s knockout stage, when the Yanks face tournament dark horse Belgium in the Round of 16 in Fortaleza.
Team USA made it through the group stage with just one victory, but they’ll need a win against Belgium to advance. Belgium won all three games in group play and conceded just one goal.
The U.S. was without one of their best players for most of the first three games of the World Cup, but that will no longer be the case. Forward Jozy Altidore is set to return on Tuesday, after suffering a hamstring injury in the opener against Ghana.
It doesn’t look likely that Altidore will be in the starting lineup, and it’s unknown for how long he’ll be able to play, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann has told the media that the 24-year-old will be available.
“This is what we want, this is what we hoped for,” said Klinsmann. “This is what the medical staff has been working on since the injury.
“Just having him with us is huge. And how many minutes? Wge’ll see that during the game.”
Prior to the start of the tournament, Altidore was expected to provide a good portion of the scoring for the U.S. He scored two goals against Nigeria in their final warm-up, before the start of the World Cup.
Jermaine Jones, who scored one of Team USA’s goals against Portugal, has been dealing with an injury of his own. The midfielder broke his nose in a collision with Alejandro Bedoya against Germany. Like Clint Dempsey, who broke his nose in the team’s first match, Jones isn’t expected to miss any time.
Even with a largely healthy roster, it would still be an upset for the U.S. to advance. Belgium is one of the favorites to win the championship, and Team USA is aware that advancing won’t be easy.
"We need to find a way to bottle up their key players," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "But they have so many of them. It will be difficult."
However, it won't be a full roster for the Red Devils. Left back Thomas Verlmaelen, who plays for Arsenal, has been ruled out, while superstar Manchester City center back Vincent Kompany has been listed as doubtful.
G: Tim Howard
D: Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DeMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson
M: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi
F: Clint Dempsey
G: Thibaut Courtois
D: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Daniel van Buyten
M: Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Dries Metens
F: Romelu Lukaku