U.S. national team strikers Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez tried to one-up each other last week.
Altidore tallied two goals and assisted on another in a Dutch Cup semifinal win over Ajax, only for Gomez to match that stat line in spectacular fashion on Friday for Santos Laguna. Altidore had the final say Sunday, though, scoring his 17th league goal and exhibiting his versatility by athletically chipping with his left foot in stride. Both players have shown an improved ability to score in many ways. The production is a sight for sore eyes for U.S. national team coaches and supporters.
Altidore's three goals over the week gave him 24 in all competitions this season (with 10 games still to play), breaking Clint Dempsey's record for an American abroad set last year, when he tallied 23 for Fulham. For Gomez, the tallies gave him three in nine games during the Clausura campaign, but he has been known for his hot streaks. The way he performed against Jaguares indicates that another trademark Gomez run could be on the way.
Considering their club form, will Altidore and Gomez start together with the U.S. in need of an attacking spark in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico? That all depends on who is available to Jurgen Klinsmann and the tactics he chooses to deploy. With Dempsey currently on the shelf with a minor calf injury, there is no guarantee that he will be fully fit (although there are still more than two weeks until qualifiers resume, and Klinsmann showed in September that he has no problem playing Dempsey for 90 minutes after a lengthy spell of inactivity), leaving Altidore and Gomez as the top two forward options in the player pool.
Altidore and Gomez have only started twice together in the Klinsmann era, once in the 2-1 loss at Jamaica on Sept. 7 and again in the 2-2 draw with Russia in a November friendly (they also started the famous Algeria World Cup match together under Bob Bradley). Both have fallen victim to the U.S. setup -- more so Altidore, who has not scored for the USA since November 2011, than Gomez -- in which the lack of a true midfield playmaker and capable wingers to stretch defenses and set up forwards with ample service has neutralized their scoring potential. This past week just goes to show how lethal these players can be when put in the right positions. If they get the chance to be the U.S. strike tandem in the coming weeks, all tactical plans and personnel choices should be geared toward the in-form pair.
Altidore and Gomez were not the only Americans to find the back of the net this past week. Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona scored Copa Libertadores goals as Tijuana improved to 2-0-0 in the prestigious competition, and Alejandro Bedoya kicked off his second short-term spell with Helsingborg with a goal in the club's Swedish Cup match. Those were the top performers in a highlight-laden week for Americans abroad. Here is how they and the rest of the contingent fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Geoff Cameron, D/M, Stoke City -- In the 18, did not play in Stoke City's 1-0 loss to West Ham on Saturday.
SEASON: 28 games, 26 starts
Cody Cropper, GK, Southampton -- Not in the 18 for Southampton's 2-1 loss to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Cropper backstopped the U.S. Under-20 men's national team to the finals of the CONCACAF U-20 championship and a berth in this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup.
SEASON: 0 games
Clint Dempsey, M/F, Tottenham -- Not in the 18 for Tottenham's 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday. Dempsey is still nursing a calf injury.
SEASON: 33 games, 25 starts, 8 goals
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- In the 18, did not play in Tottenham's 2-1 win over Arsenal.
SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 21 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- Started, played 90 minutes and made seven saves in Villa's 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Monday.
SEASON: 27 games, 27 starts, 49 goals allowed, 6 clean sheets
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and made six saves in Everton's 3-1 win over Oldham Athletic in their FA Cup fifth-round replay Tuesday. The Toffees will face Wigan Athletic in the quarterfinals. Howard was not in the 18 for Everton's 3-1 win over Reading on Saturday. The U.S. national team No. 1 keeper missed the match with a minor back injury and saw his streak of 210 consecutive Premier League starts -- the longest among active streak and second all-time only to Brad Friedel's 310 -- come to an end.
SEASON: 31 games, 31 starts, 38 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 1-0 loss to Manchester City.
SEASON: 21 games, 13 starts
Brek Shea, M, Stoke City -- In the 18, came on as a 66th-minute substitute in Stoke City's 1-0 loss to West Ham.
SEASON: 2 games
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- In the 18, did not play in Derby County's 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace on Friday.
SEASON: 3 games, 1 start
Stuart Holden, M, Bolton -- In the 18, played 66 minutes in Bolton's 1-0 win over Peterborough United on Tuesday, his first league appearance in almost two years while battling injuries. Holden was in the 18 but did not play in a 3-2 win over Barnsley on Saturday.
SEASON: 3 games
Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Not in the 18 for Bolton's 1-0 victory over Peterborough United or for Bolton's 3-2 victory over Barnsley.
SEASON: 16 games, 14 starts
Jonathan Spector, D/M, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 5-2 loss to Hull City on Saturday.
SEASON: 26 games, 22 starts, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Leicester City - In the 18, did not play in Leicester City's 3-0 win over Blackburn on Tuesday and a 1-0 loss to Ipswich Town on Saturday.
SEASON: 15 games, 14 starts, 1 goal
Mike Grella, F, Scunthorpe United -- In the 18, did not play in Scunthorpe's 1-0 win over Stevenage on Tuesday. Grella was in the 18 and came on as an 80th-minute substitute in a 1-0 loss to Brentford on Saturday.
SEASON: 23 games, 12 starts, 2 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 3-0 loss to Walsall on Tuesday and a 1-0 loss to Notts County on Saturday.
SEASON: 35 games, 33 starts
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Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- Not in the 18 for Nurnberg's 1-1 draw with SC Freiburg on Saturday. Chandler was suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card in Nurnberg's previous game.
SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Not in the 18 for Hannover's 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
SEASON: 28 games, 27 starts
Fabian Johnson, D, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Sunday.
SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 3 goals
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and assisted on a goal in Schalke's 4-1 win over VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.
SEASON: 27 games, 24 starts, 2 goals
Michael Parkhurst, D, FC Augsburg -- Not in the 18 for Augsburg's 1-0 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday.
SEASON: 23 games, 21 starts, 2 goals (21 games, 20 starts, 2 goals with FC Nordsjaelland)
Danny Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Hoffenheim's 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
SEASON: 18 games, 14 starts, 1 goal
John Anthony Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hertha Berlin's 1-0 loss to Dynamo Dresden on Saturday.
SEASON: 20 games, 17 starts
Joe Gyau, M, St. Pauli -- Started, played 90 minutes in St. Pauli's 1-0 win over Aalen on Sunday.
SEASON: 11 games, 3 starts
Alfredo Morales, D/M, Hertha Berlin -- In the 18, came on as a 78th-minute substitute in Hertha Berlin's 1-0 loss to Dynamo Dresden.
SEASON: 3 games, 1 start
Bobby Wood, F, TSV 1860 Munich - In the 18, came on as a halftime substitute in Munich's 1-1 draw with FC Ingolstadt 04 on Sunday.
SEASON: 11 games, 5 starts, 2 goals
Andrew Wooten, F, SV Sandhausen - Started, played 73 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Sandhausen's 3-1 win over Jahn Regensburg on Friday.
SEASON: 19 games, 12 starts, 4 goals
Michael Bradley, M, AS Roma -- In the 18, came on as a 39th-minute substitute and picked up a yellow card in Roma's 3-1 win over Genoa on Sunday.
SEASON: 24 games, 21 starts, 2 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Malaga - Not in the 18 for Malaga's 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
SEASON: 8 games, 7 starts, 2 goals
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Racing Santander -- In the 18, did not play in Racing Santander's 2-0 loss to Numancia on Sunday.
SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts (7 games, 7 starts with Rangers)
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar - Started, played 90 minutes, scored two goals and assisted on another in AZ's 3-0 win over Ajax in the semifinals of the KNVB Beker on Wednesday, sealing a place in the cup final against PSV Eindhoven. Altidore headed home from close range to open the scoring in the 74th minute before setting up Johan Gudmundsson for a breakaway with a long-range curling ball from inside AZ's own half for the club's second goal. He capped the day by catching Ajax's keeper off his line and chipping him from the right wing in stoppage time. Altidore also started, played 90 minutes and scored a goal in AZ's 2-1 loss to RKC Waalwijk in league play Sunday. Altidore ran onto a through ball from Adam Maher and chipped the goalkeeper from the left side of the box to pull AZ level at 1-1 at the time.
SEASON: 33 games, 33 starts, 24 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 1-0 loss to Zulte-Waregem on Wednesday. Kljestan was not in the 18 for a 1-0 (1-1 on aggregate, 7-6 loss on penalties) defeat to Genk in the semifinals of the Belgian Cup on Saturday.
SEASON: 37 games, 30 starts, 2 goals
Terrence Boyd, F, Rapid Vienna -- Started, played 90 minutes in Rapid Vienna's 2-1 loss to Wolfsberger AC on Sunday.
SEASON: 31 games, 25 starts, 14 goals
Maurice Edu, M, Bursaspor -- Not in the 18 for Bursaspor's 1-0 loss to Sivasspor in the Turkish Cup on Thursday. Edu started and played 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Sivasspor in league play Sunday.
SEASON: 10 games, 8 starts (1 game with Stoke City)
Caleb Patterson-Sewell, GK, Vitoria Setubal -- In the 18, did not play in Vitoria Setubal's 2-0 loss to Pacos de Ferreira on Saturday.
SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 12 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Tony Taylor, F, Estoril Praia -- In the 18, came on as an 86th-minute substitute in Estoril's 2-0 win over Rio Ave on Sunday.
SEASON: 13 games, 4 starts
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- Started, played 90 minutes in Puebla's 1-1 draw with Pumas UNAM in the Copa MX on Wednesday and in Puebla's 1-0 win over Leon in league play Saturday.
SEASON: 12 games, 9 starts, 2 goals
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- Not in the 18 for Tigres' 1-1 draw with Morelia on Saturday.
SEASON: 0 games
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored the opening goal in Tijuana's 4-0 win over San Jose in the Copa Libertadores group stage Wednesday. Castillo also started and played 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Atlas in league play Saturday. Castillo suffered three broken facial bones in the 18th minute and stayed on through the final whistle, but the club announced he will miss at least 10 days before being reevaluated.
SEASON: 10 games, 10 starts, 1 goal
Joe Corona, M, Tijuana -- Started, played 58 minutes and scored in Tijuana's 4-0 win over San Jose in the Copa Libertadores group stage. Corona was in the 18 and came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in a 1-0 loss to Atlas in league play.
SEASON: 10 games, 7 starts, 1 goal
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, Puebla -- Started, played 90 minutes in Puebla's 1-1 draw with Pumas UNAM in the Copa MX. Oroczo Fiscal was not in the 18 for a 1-0 win over Leon in league play.
SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 4-0 win over San Jose in the Copa Libertadores group stage or a 1-0 loss to Atlas in league play.
SEASON: 0 games
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- Started, played 74 minutes and scored two goals and assisted on another in Santos Laguna's 3-1 win over Jaguares on Friday. Gomez latched onto a through ball that split two defenders the box, took a touch to round the keeper and fired in stride into an open goal to start the scoring in the 14th minute. After Jaguares leveled, Gomez helped set up Oribe Peralta's go-ahead strike with a header in his direction in the ensuing minute before capping the scoring in the 21st by stretching the defense, running onto a long pass and deftly cutting back on his defender to create space for a shot for the final tally of the match.
SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts, 3 goals
Benji Joya, M, Santos Laguna -- Not in the 18 for Santos Laguna's 3-1 win over Jaguares on Friday. Joya was part of the U.S U-20 squad that reached Sunday's final of the CONCACAF U-20 championship.
SEASON: 0 games
Jose Torres, M, Tigres UANL -- Started, played 72 minutes in Tigres' 1-1 draw with Morelia.
SEASON: 8 games, 8 starts
Charlie Davies, F, Randers FC -- In the 18, came on as an 88th-minute substitute in Randers' 2-0 win over Brondby on Sunday.
SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts
Clarence Goodson, D, Brondby IF -- In the 18, came on as a 10th-minute substitute in Brondby's 2-0 loss to Randers on Sunday.
SEASON: 15 games, 14 starts, 1 goal
Conor O'Brien, F, FC Nordsjaelland -- Started, played 84 minutes in Nordsjaelland's 1-0 win over Horsens on Sunday. It marked O'Brien's debut after a winter transfer during the midseason break from Sonderjyske.
SEASON: 23 games, 13 starts, 5 goals (22 games, 12 starts, 5 goals with Sonderjyske)
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Helsingborg -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Helsingborg's 1-1 draw with Assyriska in the opening game of the Svenska Cupen (Swedish Cup) group stage on Sunday.
SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Brian Span, M, Djurgarden IF - Started, played 68 minutes in Djurgaden's 3-0 victory over Umea in the opening game of the Svenska Cup group stage on Sunday.
SEASON: 1 game, 1 start