There's no debate about the two hottest strikers in the world eligible to play for the U.S. national team: Jozy Altidore, tied for the Dutch league scoring lead with eight goals for AZ Alkmaar, and Chris Wondolowski, who has 25 goals for the San Jose Earthquakes.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann left both off his 24-player U.S. roster for the final two matches of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The United States needs positive results Friday at Antigua and Barbuda and Tuesday against Guatemala in Kansas City, Kan., to avoid the unthinkable: failing to reach the World Cup.
But despite being under as much pressure as he has faced in his 14-month tenure, Klinsmann wants to send a message to Altidore, unhappy with his form and attitude.
"I think Jozy can do much, much better," Klinsmann said. "The reason he's not coming in is mainly because of his performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training and also certain things that went on through the May to June camp."
Klinsmann said Wondolowski's exclusion was "more tactical," opting instead for Eddie Johnson, whose last U.S. appearance was in 2010, and Alan Gordon, who has never played for the national team. Wondolowski was supposedly on stand-by, but Klinsmann announced no replacements after dropping Landon Donovan and Brek Shea because of injury.
"We wanted to bring in Eddie and Alan because both are really strong in the air," said Klinsmann, who also is determined to show he is as much a tactician as he is a motivator.
But with the United States badly needing points, Klinsmann has picked a risky stage to prove something.
- Craig Stouffer