JOZY Altidore was successful as Captain America last night – a consolation for his World Cup heartache.
The Sunderland striker led out the USA against the Czech Republic in the Generali Arena in Prague, just two months after a hamstring tear ended his World Cup dream in America’s opening game against Ghana.
The captain’s armband was a huge vote of confidence in the forward’s future from America coach Jurgen Klinsmann, after the anti-climax in Brazil.
And the Black Cats man triumphed, with former Rangers man Alejandro Bedoya bagging the only goal six minutes before half-time, netting after Petr Cech parried a shot from Mix Diskerud.
Altidore admitted that being sidelined so early in the world’s biggest football tournament had been tough for him to take.
“It was difficult – I’m not going to lie to you,” he told the Echo as he reflected on an injury which ended his participation almost before it had begun..
“You see the World Cup and you see how much goes into it, how special it is and how many people are watching, so representing your country is unbelievable.
“It took a while to get over the disappointment, it took a few weeks but I’m fine now and excited for the next World Cup!”
Altidore was very much the promotional face of the finals in his home country.
Although he has not set the Stadium of Light on fire since arriving from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in a £6.5m deal last summer, he remains very much an American hero on the back of scoring 23 goals in 71 games going into last night’s match.
At 24, he is already his country’s sixth highest goalscorer and the youngest player ever to score a hat-trick for the US so he was a natural for the PR marketing drive going into the tournament.
The disappointment of his injury will undoubtedly linger a little while longer .
But Altidore is very much looking forward to the future.
“The World Cup was huge in our country,” he said. “It was very big and important.
“But all we can do now is to start again and be ready for the next World Cup in Russia and the work to get there, starts now.”
Having fully overcome the hamstring injury which disrupted his pre-season, Altidore is glad too have had a run-out with the US last night and glad to have been involved in all four of Sunderland’s games so far this season.
“I just need games under my belt right now,” he said. “It’s all about getting as much time on the pitch as I can to get back to my sharpest.”