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U.S. men

Altidore sparks comeback with three goals, assist to defeat Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, August 14, 2013) -- Striker Jozy Altidore continued his torrid pace in 2013, assisting the first goal, then scoring three of his own, leading the United States men from a two-goal deficit at halftime to a 4-3 triumph over host Bosnia and Herzegovina before a capacity crowd of about 24,000 at Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium in Sarajevo.

Altidore became the first American to score in five straight matches, while the U.S. increased its record winning streak to 12, five more than its previous best.

"I think (U.S. coach) Jürgen (Klinsmann) has always said even if we go down a goal to keep responding,” Altidore said. “This time we went down two goals, so it was a challenge for us. But I think you saw in the game, we were never outplayed. It was just a matter of ironing out the mental errors, which we did, and we created a lot of chances."

In the first half, the U.S. was flat and a bit disorganized, while Bosnia and Herzegovina dominated, getting goals from a pair of forwards -- Edin Dzeko, who plays for Manchester City of the English Premier League and Vedad Ibisevic, who grew up in St. Louis and now toils for VfB Stuttgart of the German Bundesliga.

“What a win. It was a tale of two halves,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We didn’t play well the first half and the second half we were awesome. We deserved the win.”

Bosnian coach Safet Susic made four changes after intermission. Even though one of those substitutions was to introduce midfielder Miralem Pjanic, one of his best players and a member of Italy’s AS Roma, his team seemed to lose its rhythm. The Americans began to gain confidence, and over the final 35 minutes, Altidore produced probably his best effort for his national team.

At the same time, Klinsmann made a key move, shifting Eddie Johnson from the midfield to the front line for the second half. Edgar Castillo was inserted as left back, sending Fabian Johnson to left midfield and removing Mix Diskerud.

"We conceded the two goals and we knew that Dzeko and Ibisevic are such a threat, especially from set pieces,” Klinsmann said. “But we already had chances to score and I said to the guys at halftime, ‘There's a game to play and we can come back in this game.’ It was wonderful to see the energy and dynamic of the whole group. We pushed and pushed, kept the tempo higher than Bosnia did and absolutely deserved the win."

The results were immediate, Just 10 minutes in, Altidore settled a long pass in stride, using his first touch to send the ball to his right to Johnson. With Bosnian keeper Asmir Begovic racing out to defend Altidore, Eddie Johnson, who had been running parallel to Altidore, deposited an 16-yard right-footer into the empty net, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Four minutes later, Altidore took a short pass from defender Fabian Johnson and finished beautifully to tie the score at 2-2.

A couple of late moments of industriousness from Altidore gave the match to the U.S. In the 84th minute, he faced the left post from 30 yards out and laced a curling free kick into the top near corner to give the Americans their first lead.

Two minutes later, Altidore ran onto a deft touch from midfielder Michael Bradley and blasted home an eight-yarder under Begovic for a 4-2 advantage.

“We see Jozy understanding the demands at this level, to be consistent and always focused,” Klinsmann said. “He went through a lot of maturing the last couple years. The ups and downs are normal, but he really understands when it counts and how he has to be there with his presence. He makes everybody around him a better player and its real enjoyable, real fun.”

Altidore’s third goal turned out to be important because Dzeko easily shook the mark of 20-year-old German-American central defender John Brooks, making is U.S. debut, and scored his second goal in the 90th minute for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Despite conceding the late goal, the U.S. defense was improved over the closing 45 minutes.

The two Johnsons caused all kinds of problems for the Bosnians in the second half. Fabian slashed in from the outside into the middle, upsetting the static opposing midfield. Before departing in the 63rd minute, Eddie continually ran at the defense, distracting it from Altidore, which gave him more room to operate.

A big plus for the U.S. was its offensive efficiency, finding net four times on six shots on goal, better finishing then it has exhibited in the past. The improvement could basically be attributed to Altidore, who converted three of his four shots on target.

The U.S. next resumes CONCACAF World Cup qualifying September 6 at Costa Rica. Four days later, the Americans host Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. A victory and a draw would assure the U.S. a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"Everybody has confidence and tonight shows the depth we have in this team,”Altidore said. “Guys can step in at any time and put in a good performance. It makes us all better and demands the best out of each other. I think for the qualifiers we will look good."


U.S. Player Ratings:

Starters

Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: He might have done better on both Bosnian goals, but, in the second half, he came up big twice, helping settle his defense down.

Defender Fabian Johnson - 6.5: Did OK as a defender in the first half, but did much better in the midfield over the second 45 minutes. In the midfield, he cause all kinds of problems and helped open up the game for his teammates.

Defender John Brooks - 5.5: The match was obviously a learning experience for the 20-year old in his first international appearance. He made some very good plays, but also made his share of mistakes, some coming, no doubt, because of his lack of even training time with his new teammates.

Defender Geoff Cameron - 5.5: He did not distinguish himself on the two Bosnian goals, but overall was reasonably competent, considering he faced a world-class striker in Dzeko.

Defender Brad Evans - 6: He was the most consistent U.S. defender over the whole match. He was able to get forward from time to time and was rarely beaten defensively. All in all, he had a good match.

Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7: As he usually is, he was the heart of the U.S. midfield. He was tenacious on defense and made key passes on attack in a strong effort.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5.5: He made mistakes, giving the ball up several times, but often it was in situations when he was up against three Bosnians. He took a hard knock in the first half and generally looked tired after playing a hard club match on the weekend.

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 5.5: He did fine defensively in the middle. Offensively, he was able to get a couple of crosses in, but his own shooting was woeful.

Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 5: Far from his best U.S. effort. The opponent was a clear step up from the CONCACAF Gold Cup foes against which he did well. He made one very good move in the opening 20 minutes and might have deserved a penalty kick, but otherwise was ready to come out at the interval.

Midfielder\forward Eddie Johnson - 6: He finished well for the first U.S. goal and, in the second half, when he was playing higher with Altidore, he caused Bosnia and Herzegovina all kinds of problems, taking a lot of pressure off of Altidore. He is a better forward than a midfielder..

Forward Jozy Altidore - 8: He simply did everything, scoring three goals, each in a different way. He nice touch to Johnson for the Americans’ first goal ignited the comeback. He really could not have done more.

Reserves:

Defender Edgar Castillo (46th minute for Diskerud) - 5.5: He was solid enough on defense. His presence allowed both Eddie Johnson and Fabian Johnson to move forward which helped turn the match around. His run toward the penalty area set up Altidore’s free kick for the tiebreaking tally.

Midfielder Joe Corona (63rd minute for Bedoya) - 5.5: He did not add much to the attack, but he did have a couple of fine moments. He was solid enough and he added to the overall U.S. effort in the late going.

Forward Aron Johannsson (63rd minute for E. Johnson) - 6: In his international debut, he played a fine 30 minutes. He didn’t score, but put himself in position to do so several times and he looked very dangerous. He also combined well with Altidore. He looks like a keeper.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (69th minute for Jones) - 5.5: He was a good substitution for Jones when the defensive midfielder ran out of gas. He was able to get the ball from back to front at key times as part of a positive 20 minutes.

Defender Michael Parkhurst (79th minute for F. Johnson) - 5: He had little impact over the final minutes.

Defender Bobby Wood (88th minute for Evans) - no rating: A token appearance to earn his first cap and a game check, and to waste a bit of clock.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Jozy Altidore.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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