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June 17, 2014
Dempsey, Besler should play vs. Portugal, Altidore hopes to return during WC

By Michael Lewis
Big Apple Soccer Editor

Jozy Altidore's hamstring injury will keep him out of Sunday's match against Portugal.
Jozy Altidore's hamstring injury will keep him out of Sunday's match against Portugal.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- For the U.S. National Team, two out of three might be good, but it won't be good enough as it starts to prepare for Portugal in its second World Cup game on Sunday.

Two starters were given the go-ahead by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to play for the Americans -- center back Matt Besler and striker Clint Demspey -- while Jozy Altidore will have to wait a few days before he will be able to play in the competition again.

Altidore, a former Red Bulls striker, was forced from the 2-1 win over Ghana in Natal on Monday night with a strained left hamstring. He underwent an MRI along with Besler at a local hospital Tuesday.

Besler, who had tightness in his right hamstring, was replaced at halftime by John Brooks, who turned out to be the hero by connecting on an 86th-minute corner kick for the game-winner.

"Matt is no problem, all fine for the next game," Klinsmann said during a press conference at Sao Paulo FC.

The same went for Dempsey, who is expected to play as well despite breaking his nose when he was kicked in the face in the 33rd minute, and has the option of wearing a mask. Dempsey scored 30 seconds into the match. FIFA originally had it at 29 seconds, but switched it to 30.

“Maybe he has the option of getting a mask on," Klinsmann said, "Broken nose or not, I don’t know how much a mask can protect him. Whatever he feels good with. I think that with a broken nose - it was tricky during the game. He could barely breath and he struggled with that."

Altidore's availability is another matter. Klinsmann was hopeful that he would be available later in the tournament.

"We have to see how he reacts in the next couple of days with his hamstring," he said. "We are full of hope that he comes back still in this tournament. That’s what we are going to work on every day. The medical staff has done a tremendous job. We still have hope that Jozy will come back. How quickly? That is down to his healing process.”

Altidore was taken off on a stretcher.

Asked what he said to his striker after he reached the sideline, Klinsmann replied, “All you do as a coach is give him a positive hug and tell him, listen you’ll be back and stay positive, you’ll be back. Don’t cut if off now. And that’s what I told him right away in the locker room as well. I keep him positive and we have big hope that he’s coming back in this tournament.”

Of course, Klinsmann has a Plan B if Altidore cannot return for Portugal, but he wasn't going to reveal his strategy.

“I don’t want to go too deep into details," he said, "because obviously we want Portugal to guess a little bit as well, but you know when one of your key players is not available, does it change certain things? Absolutely it does. Jozy is a very strong key player in our group, so we’ll think about the right way to handle that situation. We’ll still field 11, you know, we’re not a man down. We still have somebody coming in and we’ll make it very, very difficult for Portugal in Manaus. We’ll find solutions.”
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