U.S. men's national team

Young forwards have U.S. approaching World Cup berth

September 9, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies are too young to remember the last time the United States missed the World Cup.

Now, these two forwards are a big reason why the Americans could close in on a sixth straight berth when they play at Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday night.

"We have a lot of pace. We're young guys with a lot of energy," Davies said. "It's definitely helpful. I think it definitely brings a lot to the team."

Davies is 23, born four days before Diego Maradona and Argentina beat Germany to win the World Cup in 1986 -- the last time the Americans failed to qualify for the tournament.

The Americans (4-2-1) have 13 points, second behind Honduras on goal difference, just ahead of Mexico and Costa Rica (both 4-3). The top three teams in the six-nation finals of North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify for next year's 32-nation field in South Africa. The No. 4 team advances to a playoff against South America's fifth-place finisher.

The Americans' final two qualifiers are next month, at Honduras on Oct. 10 and against Costa Rica four days later in Washington.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley seems to have found his forwards of the future in Davies and Altidore, the 19-year-old who leads the U.S. in scoring.

Altidore scored his sixth goal in qualifying on a header late in the first half that put the Americans ahead to stay in Saturday's 2-1 win over El Salvador. He and Davies celebrated with a brief combination of a couple dance moves and low-fives that seemed to break down in laughter.

"They give us a physical dimension -- the speed the strength -- to keep defenses on their heels," Bradley said. "I think both are improving in terms of the understanding between them and also the overall sense of how to play within the team. It's progress for sure."

The young Americans' promise showed Saturday. Altidore scored the winner and had another goal waived off in the second half because of a foul.

Davies pressured El Salvador most of the game before leaving with a bruised left calf in the 71st minute. However, he practiced with the team Tuesday in Port-of-Spain and should be ready to go Wednesday against Trinidad and Tobago.

"Today we needed to see how a few guys felt -- Charlie being one of them," Bradley said. "Based upon the little we did, the guys seem OK. We will see how they are later tonight and tomorrow and make a final decision."

Bradley also said central defender Oguchi Onyewu would return for the United States after sitting out a one-game suspension on Saturday. He is expected to team with either Carlos Bocanegra or Chad Marshall. Jay DeMerit, who usually plays in central defense with Onyewu, has a strained groin and will not play. He also missed the El Salvador match.

Davies had one shot off a pass from Altidore almost reach the net, but an El Salvador defender reached the ball just before it could cross the goal line and kicked it away.

Davies also had a nice crossing pass in the 28th minute to Clint Dempsey, who kicked it wide to the left.

Dempsey was on target in the 41st minute with the tying goal off a free kick from Landon Donovan, who also set up Altidore's go-ahead goal two minutes into stoppage time.

Donovan, the U.S. career leader in goals and assists, has two new targets.

"If you take it upon yourself to get into a good spot, he'll find you," Altidore said.

Altidore rejoined the team last week after a successful debut with England's Hull, getting an assist and goal.

Davies had a breakthrough season last year in Sweden with 14 goals and moved this summer to Sochaux of France's first division. He had two goals in qualifying, including the only U.S. score in a 2-1 loss at Mexico last month.

So far, the pairing up front has shown potential.

"We're hopeful that this can continue to be something that we can build upon," Bradley said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press