April 1, 2009
By Michael Lewis
Altidore's hat-trick boosts U.S. 3-0
Nashville -- Memo to XereX CD: Maybe you should take a second look at that 19-year-old striker named Jozy Altidore.
|Jozy Altidore converted a rare hat-trick for the U.S. National Team.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images.
If the Spanish Second Division club had gotten the TV feed of Wednesday night’s game, it would have seen the former Red Bulls forward score register a hat trick in the U.S.'s 3-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in a key World Cup qualifying match.
Altidore, who hasn't played a minute for his club team this season, struck in the 13th, 71st and 89th minutes as the Americans (2-0-1, seven points) maintained their lead atop the CONCACAF hexagonal. Trinidad (0-1-2, two) suffered its first loss.
The Americans entered the vital encounter at LP Field with their confidence shaken, after barely escaping El Salvador with a 2-2 draw on Saturday night after trailing 2-0. Altidore, who was transferred from the New York Red Bulls to Villarreal for an American-record $10 million last June, scored the first goal in Saturday's comeback effort off the bench.
That goal earned Altidore a place in coach Bob Bradley’s heavily shaken-up lineup against T&T. Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who sat out Saturday's match with a yellow card suspension, returned to the net. Central defender Oguchi Onyewu replaced Danny Califf in the back, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was moved to left fullback and Pablo Mastroeni took over for Sacha Kljestan at midfield.
The U.S. broke the Soca Warriors with a nifty goal in the 13th minute. Central defender Carlos Bocanegra sent a long ball down the left flank to Brian Ching, who sent a head flick to Landon Donovan. Donovan then placed a perfect left-wing cross to the onrushing Altidore, who slammed the ball into the net past goalkeeper Clayton Ince from close range.
Altidore, who was loaned to Xerex by Villarreal last year, converted on another nifty play in the 71st minute. This time a racing Donovan sent a ball from the left side that Altidore gathered in outside of the penalty area. He worked his way some eight yards out before depositing his shot into the back of the net.
He put an exclamation point on the memorable match with his third goal in the 89th minute. Donovan had the ball in the area and a point-blank shot on goal. Instead, he gave the opportunity to Altidore, who scored off a left-footed shot from 18 yards for his sixth goal in nine international games.
Altidore certainly could have walked out of the stadium with more than three goals, as he missed two other golden scoring opportunities before a crowd of 27,959.
He almost found the back of the net in the 27th minute, when he ran onto a cross-field pass from the left side by Michael Bradley. He chested the ball down and tried to chip Ince, but his attempt went wide left.
Altidore was at it again in the 41st minute when his three-yard attempt -- off a Brian Ching feed -- somehow popped over the net.
Howard did his best imitation of former international and current Seattle Sounders keeper Kasey Keller in the sixth minute when his clearance went straight to an open Stern John. But the former Columbus Crew striker's hurried attempt went wide right.
Ching flirted with a goal in the eighth minute, but his 10-yard attempt on the right side of the penalty area traveled just left of the net.
In the 42nd minute, Beasley sent a point-blank header right to Ince.
Early in the second half, Donovan sent a 30-yard kick into the area that central defender Carlos Bocanegra headed over the crossbar.
Trinidad tried to push up and equalize. The visitors got an opportunity in the 63rd minute on a 25-yard free kick. The U.S. brought every player into the penalty area for this one. Trinidad's Kenwyne Jones ran over the ball before Keon Daniel knocked the ball into the defensive wall. The ball came back to Daniel, who placed a shot on goal that Howard caught.
The U.S. won't be in action again until June 3, when it visits nemesis Costa Rica in San Jose. Perhaps Altidore will have worked himself into the Xerex starting 11 by then, or will be playing for yet another Spanish club.