COMMENTARY | One shouldn't get overly emotional about any international friendly that occurs three days before the start of the European calendar.
All were reminded of this when, up 2-0 at the break, Bosnia-Herzegovina subbed off nearly half of its starters before the beginning of the second half. That point aside, US Soccer supporters have every right to be high on Jozy Altidore.
Just when you think not much else can be said about his summer, the new Sunderland signing goes and has the best half of his US Men's National Team career.
I'll get to the goals a bit later in this piece. What first needs to be addressed are the things that don't show up on a stat sheet or a highlight reel. Altidore's hold-up play throughout the opening 45 minutes was immaculate, exactly what head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has wanted to see from the 23-year-old since 2011. Such play would have resulted in an early US goal if Altidore and teammate Eddie Johnson had been on the same page at that moment of the game, and Altidore, who came close to drawing a red card while on a breakaway midway through the first half, was unquestionably the best attacking player wearing a US shirt heading into halftime.
Then came the four goals, all of which both featured Altidore and were the result of world-class play. The first, buried 10 minutes after the break, began with a precise over-the-top ball delivered by midfield general Michael Bradley. Altidore did well to both remain onside and then beat his marker and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to the ball. Altidore then, as cool as you like, played a first-touch tap-pass into the path of the oncoming Eddie Johnson, and EJ sent home one of the easiest tallies of his career to cut the deficit in half.
Little did we know that one sparkling run signaled Altidore taking the game over. Four minutes later, Altidore cut inside his defender before running down a through ball inside the penalty area. His first touch teed the ball up for his weaker left foot, but there was certainly nothing weak about the rocket that sailed past Begovic and into the far corner of the net. It was, to be cliché, a "striker's goal," one delivered by a top-tier finisher.
Perhaps most impressive about that goal was the player's reaction. Altidore ran right into the net and picked the ball up before retreating back to the midfield in order to get play restarted. That's the type of confidence and team-first mentality one sees out of a veteran and future captain.
Two goals in two minutes sealed Altidore's hat-trick and the US win. The first of those came six minutes from time off of a curling free kick that would make the likes of Bale and Ronaldo stand and take notice. The second, a first-touch right-footed strike from inside the box, would prove to be the match winner.
The stats since that June friendly against Germany are nothing short of remarkable. Goals in five consecutive national team games. Seven tallies and two assists over that period. All of this from a player who "couldn't get it done at the international level," one only good enough to routinely find the back of the net when playing against "lackluster defending" in the Eredivisie.
Altidore will soon again step out on the big stage of club football, this time while wearing Sunderland colors. His last Premier League stint, a cup of coffee with Hull City, didn't go so well, but there's no question that the Altidore of today is a different footballer and a different person than the kid of August 2009. One thing I haven't doubted over the past year is that Altidore is prime-time ready.
If this type of form continues, those in world football are about to see for themselves.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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