PRETORIA, South Africa -- Jozy Altidore ran sprint after sprint while a fitness coach looked on.
He was held out of Saturday's exhibition win over Australia, thee days after spraining his right ankle in training, and he tested the joint Sunday as the United States held a light workout at Pilditch Stadium before about 350 invited children from several groups.
"It seems like he's getting a little bit better," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "It's going to be sore, of course, but we've still got a long way to the game, you know, a long way in terms of needing time to heal. I think he'll be fine, but again, that's barring any setbacks."
It's hard to know how banged up the 20-year-old forward is: U.S. Soccer didn't make Altidore available to reporters.
While coach Bob Bradley left training without speaking to the media, he responded to questions in an e-mail through spokesman Michael Kammarman.
"Jozy has been able to add to his workload every day, which has been positive," Bradley said. "We are pleased with his progress and will continue to move him forward. The team has a day off tomorrow, so we have another opportunity to work with him individually and gauge his status for training."
If Altidore isn't healthy for the Americans' World Cup opener against England on Saturday, options have emerged. Edson Buddle scored his first two international goals in Saturday's 3-1 victory. Herculez Gomez got the other goal, his second in two World Cup warm-ups he's played. Speedy Robbie Findley stretches the defense, even if he missed an open net and hit the crossbar with another good scoring chance.
When the team gathered at Princeton, N.J., in mid-May, Altidore was the only given at forward. Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson, both coming back from hamstring injuries, were cut to make room for the other three.
"All the talk surrounding training camp was that Charlie Davies was injured, and it gave an opportunity with some new faces," midfielder Stuart Holden said. "We've seen that all these players can contribute, and it's nice to know you have guys that can come in and score some goals and provide a spark when they need it, or even play from the start. And it speaks to the strength of our squad."
Altidore has nine goals in 25 international appearances, more than double the other three combined: Buddle has two in three, Gomez two in four and Findley none in six.
Based on Bradley's preference for speed, it would appear likely he will start Findley with either Altidore or Buddle against the English.
"I've given him a bit of a headache probably, but it's a good headache," Buddle said. "And I think it gives us confidence going into the first match."
Gomez has scored both national team goals as a second-half substitute. He scored 10 goals this year for Puebla, many as a reserve, becoming the first American to win or share the Mexican league's regular-season scoring title. He's become accustomed to the sub role.
"Not too many minutes, but my motto is it doesn't have to be," he said. "Nine or 90, you still have to go out there and help your team, make your presence felt."
For the U.S., Bradley has experimented with using Clint Dempsey at forward instead of wide left midfield. He paired Dempsey with Altidore in the first half against Turkey.
But Dempsey seems more comfortable dropped back, and Bradley now has some options. Buddle impressed his teammates.
"Sometimes when people go down and someone else comes in," captain Carlos Bocanegra said, "you never know what the World Cup is going to bring."
Even though he missed the net, Findley may be on the fast track, so to speak, to a starting spot because of his pace.
"I think I did well. I was aggressive going at defenders, holding the ball up and just combining with everybody else on the field, and then working hard on defense as well," he said after the Australia game. "Had some opportunities, didn't go the way I wanted, but got to keep my head up and next time they come [I'll] be able to put them away."
NotesD Oguchi Onyewu still hasn't played 90 minutes in the three matches since he returned from Oct. 21 knee surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. He entered in the 61st minute against Australia, leaving some doubt whether he would start against England. "We have been working Gooch hard in training since we arrived in South Africa, and last night we felt that all things considered, it was best to use him as a reserve," Bradley said. "In all ways we are trying to move him along appropriately."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press