IRENE, South Africa -- Jozy Altidore says his sprained ankle has improved, but he left the impression it hasn't 100 percent healed ahead of the United States' World Cup opener against England on Saturday.
The 20-year-old forward hurt his right ankle in training June 2 and missed last Saturday's exhibition win over Australia. He resumed full training Tuesday.
"It's getting better for sure," he said after practice Thursday in his first availability following the injury. "I didn't think I had anything that serious to the point where I'd have to be relieved from the tournament, so I'm happy about that."
With Altidore out, Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley started at forward against Australia, and Herculez Gomez entered in the second half. Buddle scored his first two international goals and Gomez got the final score in a 3-1 victory.
"They are all great guys. So I think it's so easy, you know, in terms of clicking immediately because we all get along very well off the field," Altidore said. "On the field, everybody has their own different style of playing, which is also unique and very different. And you can kind of throw different things at different teams, and I think that's important for us."
U.S. coach Bob Bradley has downplayed Altidore's injury.
"Cost him a couple days, but from the start we knew that this was very minor," he said Wednesday.
Altidore has been running at full speed in training, but seemed to be cutting a little gingerly in the short portions of practice open to reporters. He's been spending time with trainers and done fitness work.
"Just a lot of treatments, probably two to three times a day," he said. "There's not much you do, so, you know, I'm hopeful."
Altidore scored his ninth goal in 25 international appearances against Turkey in the U.S. sendoff game last month. He had two goals for Hull last season in the English Premier League while on loan from Spain's Villarreal.
On Feb. 2, he got to play against Chelsea and John Terry, a starting central defender for England.
"It wasn't easy, I'll tell you that much," Altidore said. "He's a good player and he reads the game well. He's a competitor, so whoever's up front again him, it's going to be a battle for sure."
Altidore has been working on playing as a target forward, with his back to the goal. But he says that role may come more naturally to Buddle, Major League Soccer's scoring leader with nine goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season.
"He's a big, tall strong guy and gets on the end of things and he holds the ball up well, so I think we do have options there," Altidore said. "As for myself, there's only so much you do at the end of the day, just try to make sure you're prepared for anything that's thrown at you."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press