Jozy Altidore fired his way into United States soccer history on Wednesday as the men's national team kept its winning streak alive with a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Altidore became the first American to score in five consecutive matches, compiling a superb second-half hat trick at the Ferhatovic Hase Stadium in Sarajevo as the U.S. dug itself out of an early two-goal deficit against the world’s 13th-ranked team.
Still just 23, Altidore now seems to be blossoming into a truly world-class striker and will hope to carry the momentum into his new role at Premier League side Sunderland.His inspired effort rescued what had threatened to become a miserable night for coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team and spearheaded the USA to its 12th straight win.
Few of those victories came against opposition as accomplished as this, however. Bosnia and Herzegovina had not lost at home for three years and has recently established itself as one of the toughest and most in-form teams in Europe.
Indeed, the USA had never previously come from behind to win on European soil and the spirited nature of the revival pointed to the belief currently coursing through Klinsmann’s camp.
"This comes from everyone buying into what we are doing and it looks like everything is coming together,” Altidore said. “We came in and we said we can beat this team. I’m just happy with the game, but the bigger picture is the World Cup next year.”
Remember, it was less than a year ago that the coach’s methods were being strongly questioned, but a strong run thorough World Cup qualifying and victory in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup laid those doubts to rest. This clash was a international friendly, but such matches carry more weight with less than a year to go before World Cup rosters are finalized.
At first, it appeared the contest would provide little more than a few harsh lessons for the USA defense, in particular rookie center back John Brooks. Edin Dzeko struck early for the host nation while Vedad Ibisevic, who went to high school and college in St Louis before returning to his homeland, added a second.
But the second half saw a total reversal as the Americans finally began to get a foothold in the game.
Eddie Johnson got the ball rolling with the USA’s first goal at the 55-minute mark, the set-up provided by Michael Bradley and Altidore, the two outstanding American players on the field. Altidore skillfully knocked down Bradley’s ball forward, and Johnson made no mistake with the finish.
Four minutes later, Altidore ran onto a pass from Fabian Johnson and swiveled quickly, sending a low shot into the corner to level the score and stun a home crowd that had expected a comfortable victory.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have made short work of their World Cup qualifying campaign and are close to booking a place in Brazil next summer, but the Dragons had no answer for Altidore’s strength.
The former New York Red Bull curled in a superb free kick in the 84th minute, then rounded off his hat trick moments later following another fine run from Bradley. Dzeko grabbed a late consolation goal, but it was not enough to keep the Klinsmann juggernaut rolling along.
It is always dangerous to get over-excited about friendly results, but if nothing else, a performance like this will give the USA squad belief in its ability to claw free of adversity.
That, and the precious commodity of an in-form striker, could be highly valuable in the months to come.
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