Jozy Altidore, USA's top scorer in qualifying, and Oguchi Onyewu, a key defender sidelined by a left knee injury, are fit again and ready to face England in a FIFA World Cup™ showdown on Saturday.
Whether or not they have regained the stamina to play a full 90 minutes if asked is something that might not be shown until the Americans and England meet at Rustenburg, although Onyewu vows he can handle the challenge. "I'm up to facing England," Onyewu said. "I feel fine and ready to start the tournament. I'm physically fit. I've done all the (workouts) with the team. There is no issue in terms of me playing a full 90."
US coach Bob Bradley said Onyewu and all his team-mates can handle playing 90 minutes, crediting tough workouts since last month's start of training camp. "Our fitness program has every one of our players able to play an entire game," Bradley said. "Overall fitness is quite good. Some players that were a little behind, the work continues to move them in the right direction."
Altidore, 20, returned to full training with the team Tuesday, a week after suffering a right ankle sprain. "I feel great. The ankle feels fine," Altidore said. "It's a little sore but I had no issues participating in all the exercises. I'm happy to be part of the group again."
Our fitness program has every one of our players able to play an entire game. Overall fitness is quite good.
Bradley said it was only a minor setback for Altidore, who has been doing fitness exercises while out of practice sessions. "It cost him a couple days but from the beginning we knew this was very minor," Bradley said. "He's available for whatever role we choose Saturday."
Onyewu suffered a ruptured patellar tendon last October and missed seven months before returning last month. Bradley has used him progressively less in three tune-up matches, never more than 65 minutes. "I would love to be able to see if I could have played a full 90," he said. "A lot of our defenders haven't played a full 90. Bob was trying to disperse the time among the players."
Onyewu, 28, has not played 90 minutes in a match since last October. He saw action once for AC Milan before the injury, which came in the final US qualifier, a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica at Washington. "You can see him starting to come along," US defender Jay DeMerit said. "I don't think he or anyone was under any illusions that he would come in and be perfect to where he was last summer. When you have horrific injuries like that, you need to re-learn a lot of the key things that make you a player."
Onyewu says he is ready if things get physical against such forwards as Wayne Rooney and similar-sized Peter Crouch as England pushes for a first FIFA World Cup crown since 1966. "I've played against big, strong players before," Onyewu said. "If they want to start banging in there, I can."
The Americans hope to at least match a 2002 run into the final eight and duplicate last year's successful Confederations Cup run in South Africa, when they snapped Spain's 35-match win streak and led Brazil 2-0 before dropping the final. "This Saturday is the World Cup," Onyewu said. "It's a completely different monster."