USA coach Bob Bradley has enjoyed the luxury of being able to shuffle his attacking pack at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Often accused of lacking depth, the Stars and Stripes squad were thought to have been left exposed by the absence of livewire striker Charlie Davies and Bradley’s inclusion of three lesser-known forwards, but they have looked quite handy in attack and have options on the bench.
Real Salt Lake's Robbie Findley, Mexico-based ace Herculez Gomez and Major League Soccer's top scorer Edson Buddle have all figured – and contributed – in the Americans' inspirational run to the Round of 16. Criticised for leaving old campaigner and target man Brian Ching out of the squad, Bradley's gamble is paying off, and the loss of Davies – hero of the second-placed finish at last year's FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa – after a serious car accident has not had an impact.
"We have plenty of options up front and we've been using them according to the circumstances we find ourselves facing," Jozy Altidore, the only striker to have started all three of USA's games, told FIFA.com. "We have a lot of guys who can come off the bench and change the pace of the game, and that says a lot about how deep our squad is."
The Hull City striker started alongside Findley in the opener against England and again in the 2-2 fightback against Slovenia before the opportunistic Gomez replaced Findley at the interval of the latter match. Gomez then started up front with Altidore in the crucial 1-0 win over Algeria that sent the Americans through to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2002.
Strangely, none of the front-runners have scored in the US's two draws and a win. Altidore, their leading scorer in qualifying who showed his set-up skills by laying on the late equaliser for Michael Bradley against the Slovenians, said the reason for this was the attacking instincts of midfielders Landon Donovan, who bagged the winner against Algeria, and Clint Dempsey, who claimed the equaliser, via Robert Green's blunder, in the England game.
"We all move around quite a bit when we attack," added Altidore who is happy to hold the ball up and bring his midfield colleagues into the attack. "You can see that if you look at the winnner against Algeria, when I was making a run forward and both Clint and Landon were there to finish off the job." When asked if he feels a lack of continuity with different strike partners the brawny Altidore is quick to say no. "It doesn't change much for me, because I know I'll have quality help from whoever's joining me in attack, whether it's a second striker or guys like Landon or Clint pushing up on the wings."
Needing to beat the Algerians, Bradley threw everything at it, finishing the game with Dempsey, Donovan, Altidore, Buddle, attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber and even veteran winger DaMarcus Beasley on the pitch in the frenzied search for a goal. Now heading into a last-16 clash with another African opponent, Ghana, Bradley will take heart from the options he has in attack. And with all of his strikers having had opportunities in the group stage, there will be no rustiness from now on. "We’re a deep team; we have the guys to come off the bench if we need them and we know it," added Altidore. "That's important at a tournament like the World Cup."
USA's top scorer in qualifying, Altidore is now hoping to open his account in South Africa against the Black Stars. "This is an important thing at a tournament like the World Cup," concluded the 20-year-old.