AZ Alkmaar striker Jozy Altidore isn't just the hottest American goalscorer in the world at the end of February. He also happens to be on the cusp of history.
Altidore notched a brace and also delivered an assist in AZ's 3-0 win over Ajax in a Dutch Cup semifinal on Wednesday. The result lands AZ in the Cup Final, where they will play against PSV on May 9. PSV currently sit atop the Eredivisie league table, and they are 25 points clear of AZ. AZ, 13th in the league at the end of February, are only three points clear of the relegation playoffs zone.
Altidore opened the scoring roughly 17 minutes from time when he rose high above his lone marker just steps from the goal-line and nodded the ball into the back of the net. He then had a hand in the second goal, which came in the 88th minute. The US Men's National Team forward did well to hold off a challenge before launching a low long-ball past the halfway line and down the left wing for teammate Berg Gudmundsson. Gudmundsson beat his marker to the ball before curling a strike past the 'keeper to put AZ up 2-0.
While that would have been more than enough to put AZ through to the Final, Altidore left his best moment for last. In the third of an announced three minutes of stoppage time, he collected the ball on the edge of the attacking third. Noticing that the 'keeper was cheating off his line, Altidore then unleashed a chip from 35 yards out, sailing the ball perfectly into the far corner of the net.
That last tally puts the American on 23 total goals across all competitions this season, tying him with Clint Dempsey for the most goals scored by any American in Europe during a single campaign. AZ still have eleven games left to play before the conclusion of the current season. That fact, along with Altidore's form throughout 2012-13, suggests that the former New York Red Bulls player will soon own that record all by himself.
In an on-the-pitch interview that occurred immediately following Wednesday's contest, Altidore stated the following about his performance and AZ's victory: "When you believe and when you stay positive, good things will happen eventually. There's still ten games to go (until the end of the regular season), so hopefully this game gives us confidence going into the next ten games."
(The result) is good for confidence. I think we've struggled a lot. We have a young team, but this is good for them, to play in a final where it matters. It's important for the city, also. The fans are great to us."
Altidore, who turned just 23-years old this past November, is enjoying his best and what could also be his final season at AZ. He has, in the past, been linked with potential moves to top-tier leagues located in Spain, Italy and Russia. Some have even suggested that Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, who have been dealing with multiple striker issues throughout the current season, could also be interested. Spurs are currently third in the league table, and are looking to make a return to Champions League football after missing out on this season's competition due to Chelsea defeating Bayern Munich in the 2012 Final.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, New York Red Bulls, and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.