Team USA forward Jozy Altidore will be available to play during the World Cup match against Belgium on Tuesday, but the extent to which he’ll be able to perform remains unclear.
U.S. Soccer announced on its official Twitter account Monday that Altidore would be “ready and available” after missing the final two games of group play due to a nagging hamstring injury. Soon after, coach Jurgen Klinsmann discussed Altidore’s fitness ahead of the team’s Round of 16 match against Belgium.
“We don’t know how much [Altidore will play] because we didn’t see how things were going, but he’s available. And this is what we wanted. This is what we hoped for,” Klinsmann said at a press conference, according to Yahoo Sports. “The medical staff has been working with Jozy, and they have done a tremendous job, day and night. Just having him with us tomorrow is huge. But as for how many minutes, we’ll see that during the game.”
Still, both Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer stopped short of declaring that Altidore would start against Belgium. Even if he does, Klinsmann admitted that he’s unsure of how long Altidore will be able to safely contribute, given the state of his hamstring injury.
According to FIFA data, Clint Dempsey, who filled in for Altidore as the lone forward in the U.S. formation, ran nearly seven miles during a June 26 match against Germany, USA Today’s Nate Scott notes. Such exertion is difficult for players who are in peak form, let alone an athlete who had to be carried off the field on a stretcher just two week ago.
Still, even if he doesn’t start, Altidore will be able to contribute to Team USA's efforts. Klinsmann can chose to sub him in for some late-game offense, or send him onto the pitch for a penalty kick.
The United States will face Belgium on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. EST. The winner will advance to play the winner of the Switzerland-Argentina match on July 5, while the loser will be eliminated from contention.