Jozy Altidore is in the form of his career

Posted by Doug McIntyre

On a conference call with reporters last week, veteran U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard called striker Jozy Altidore the team's "moneymaker," the man whose goals they'd ride all the way through next summer's World Cup in Brazil.

As one of the Yanks' elder statesmen, Howard's words revealed the national team's confidence in the red-hot forward, who came into Wednesday's match against Bosnia and Herzegovina riding a four-game scoring run.

Turns out that confidence was beyond justified.

Not only did Altidore extend his streak to a U.S.-record five games in the Americans' thrilling, 4-3 comeback victory in Sarajevo, but the 23-year-old notched a second-half hat trick -- including one strike off a stunning, 30-yard free kick -- and set up another goal for Eddie Johnson as the Americans extended their historic win streak to 12 games.

It's hard to believe that less than a year ago, Altidore was fighting for his international life.

Despite starting every game at the 2010 World Cup and amassing 50-plus caps, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann left a slumping Altidore out of his squad for a pair of pivotal World Cup qualifiers last October. The U.S ended up winning both games, but it wasn't a good time for player or coach as the U.S. struggled to create chances -- let alone goals -- against inferior regional foes in the early stages of CONCACAF qualifying.

Even when Altidore was recalled, things didn't turn around right away. In fact, heading into the first team's five-game summer slate, Altidore hadn't been able to replicate at the international level the form that saw him finish last season with 31 strikes in all competitions for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar.

But in early June, everything changed. After going 18 months without a goal for the U.S., Altidore found the net in a friendly against world No. 2 Germany, and he hasn't stopped scoring since. He now has seven tallies in his past five U.S. games. Beyond the gaudy numbers, his off-the-ball movement, hold-up play and willingness to battle defenders reveal a player performing at the height of his abilities.

The timing couldn't be better, as Altidore heads into his first season with Sunderland on Saturday. A prolific season in the English Premier League is anything but guaranteed, but a successful one would surely boost his confidence even higher -- a scary thought for a player who probably won't peak for another four or five years.

Striker has long been a problem position for the Americans, of course -- U.S. forwards have gone scoreless at the past two World Cups -- but that could slowly be changing. Altidore's maturation over the past year has a lot to do with that, but Wednesday's match also marked the promising debut of youngster Aron Johannsson, Altidore's former teammate at AZ who will compete with Johnson, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez and Chris Wondolowski for a trip to Brazil 2014.

But Altidore remains the moneymaker. And as long as the goals keep flowing, the U.S. looks poised to cash in.

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