Team USA's Jozy Altidore practices, might play against Belgium
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SAO PAULO, Brazil - A day after securing a spot in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, the United States went through a light practice and regeneration at Sao Paulo FC on Friday. There was one encouraging sign: Striker Jozy Altidore was seen running with his teammates on the practice pitch.
A U.S. Soccer spokesman said he believed it was the third consecutive day Altidore ran. He strained his left hamstring 18 minutes into the 2-1 Group G win over Ghana on June 16.
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann is keeping his fingers crossed that the 24-year-old forward will be available for Tuesday's knockout-round match against Belgium in Salvador.
"We are very optimistic," he said. "Every day is a big step forward with Jozy. It's 11 days now and it's looking better every day.''
Altidore, who was not available for comment, has not spoken to the media since suffering the injury.
Klinsmann has four days to assess Altidore's condition before deciding if he will start, be a substitute or not dress. Since Altidore went down, the Americans have gone with only one striker -- captain Clint Dempsey -- and five midfielders.
The coach said Dempsey needed help up front, especially in Thursday's 1-0 loss to Germany. So a healthy Altidore would be a welcome option to the attack.
"We were too deep, especially in the first 20 minutes," Klinsmann said. "I was screaming my lungs off there to get the back line out and to move the entire unit high up the field . . . We could've equalized it in the last minute, but it wouldn't have been deserved, really. This is something we have to do better. We have to bring up the players higher up and create chances, get more support for Clint."
As originally feared, defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones broke his nose in a collision with midfielder Alejandro Bedoya in the second half Thursday. Both players were cleared to play after being checked for concussions Thursday and Friday.
Jones won't wear a protective mask and the fracture hasn't caused discoloration in the area. "I don't remember really what happened. I went for a header," he said. "The feeling was that it was broken."
The Americans have almost as many players with broken noses (two) -- Dempsey suffered one against Ghana -- as goals (three).
Belgium, the Group H winner with a 3-0-0 record, was concerned about the availability of its star defender, captain Vincent Kompany, who has endured a recurring groin injury. Kompany did not play in Thursday's 1-0 victory over South Korea.
Said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, "We will do all within our powers to make sure he comes back at 100 percent."