Americans Abroad: Altidore, Gomez showcase scorching scoring form
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):