After a thrilling win against Ghana in the opening match, the Americans got the news everybody feared most. Their best, and arguably only target up front, will not play against Portugal on Sunday. Assuming the final group stage game against Germany is a moon shot, the U.S. needs, at the very least, a draw against this talented Portugal club. So the question remains, where do they turn for a replacement?
The truth is, there's no great option waiting on the bench. There isn't another player in the country with the physical abilities of Jozy Altidore. Coach Klinsmann has a tough decision ahead of him. Let's quickly break down a few of his options up front:
Aron Johannsson: Johannson was the man coach Klinsmann went with to finish off the win against Ghana. The 23 year old forward plays for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. He scored 26 goals in 51 appearances this season, so there is promise. In addition, the boss may inclined to stick with the lineup that earned the Americans their first win. He's a favorite to land the starting spot.
Chris Wondolowski: Wondo is the only other true striker on the roster besides Altidore and Johannson. He's up there in age, but brings plenty of heart and hustle. Many say he's untested given that he's "only" an MLS for the San Jose Earthquakes. Although it's unlikely that Wondo gets the nod, die-hard U.S. Soccer fans will never forget his incredible Gold Cup performance, which probably earned him the World Cup roster-spot. Even if he doesn't start, don't be surprised to see him out there eventually.
Graham Zusi: This choice would involve some adjustments. Zusi is generally the first midfielder off the bench for the Americans. This would likely force Clint Dempsey to move up into an uncomfortable, lone striker role. That said, Zusi is probably the most talented player on the bench at this time. Is it worth sacrificing your super-sub, in addition to moving one of your most talented players out of his natural position? Pick your poison.
Realistically, that's where the list ends. 19-year-old Julian Green could see some field time, but it's likely that he was only put on the roster to gain experience. Mix Diskerud is a very creative midfielder who can bring some life to the American front-lines, but he probably ends up as a late sub, if anything.
In any case, Altidore's injury is a crushing blow for the Americans. The only saving grace is that Altidore hasn't been ruled out for the entire tournament...yet. If they can pull off a draw against Portugal, anything can happen.
Be sure to join us at 5:55pm EST on Sunday for the big game!