WASHINGTON (AP) Jozy Altidore insists he has not recovered completely from an injury filled summer, a promising thought given his latest performance.
Altidore scored a pair of second-half goals in his return to the U.S. national team, and the Americans rallied to beat Peru 2-1 in an exhibition Friday night.
”Your body might feel good, but your mind isn’t there yet,” Altidore said. ”I’m feeling better. I’m taking my time.”
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Preparing for next month’s one-game playoff against Mexico for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup, the Americans fell behind in the 20th minute. Daniel Chavez’s 20-yard shot caromed off defender Omar Gonzalez and looped over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who retained the starting job despite the return of Tim Howard from a 14-month national team sabbatical.
While the visitors had a 59-41 percent possession advantage in the first half, Altidore dampened the mostly pro-Peruvian crowd 28,896 at RFK Stadium, where the Americans improved to 15-3-5 at their most frequently used venue.
”We tried to make the pitch smaller,” Altidore said of the second-half approach. ”That was the difference in the end. At this level, when you let good players pick their head up and play, it’s going to be a long night for you.”
Altidore was sent home by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July because he failed to regain fitness following a hamstring injury. Against Peru, he played his strongest national team game in more than a year.
”He’s coming from a little bit of a difficult couple of weeks or months,” said Klinsmann, who let Altidore complete the 90 minutes, against his original plan. ”The hope was, really kind of enjoying the maximum he has, and we’ll see how long that goes. I was actually surprised that he went all the way through it.”
Altidore earned a penalty kick from Mexican referee Francisco Chacon when he controlled Geoff Cameron’s long throw-in, flicked the ball over Carlos Zambrano and was tripped by the defender. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese dove left to block the penalty kick, but the ball bounded to Altidore, who side-footed it into an empty net from 5 yards in the 59th minute.
Guzan sprawled to his right to parry Juan Manuel Vargas’ 8-yard, one-hop header off Jefferson Farfan’s free kick eight minutes later and trapped Renato Tapia’s close-range effort between his legs on the rebound.
”I was just happy to keep the first one out, and then was able to keep the second one out,” Guzan said. ”It was kind of stuck under my leg at that point.”
Altidore then started the move to the second goal when he played a long pass over the defense to DeAndre Yedlin streaking into the penalty area. Yedlin controlled the ball and cut it back for Altidore, but it was poked wide by sliding Peruvian midfielder Carlos Lobaton to the other side of the field. Gyasi Zardes’ attempt from an acute angle went between the legs of Tapia and deflected off the midfielder to Altidore at the far post, and he volleyed in from 3 yards.
With his first multigoal match since June 2014 against Nigeria, Altidore has 29 international goals, one behind Brian McBride for fourth on the American career list behind Landon Donovan (57), Dempsey (40) and Eric Wynalda (34).
”It wasn’t perfect by anybody, myself included,” Altidore said. ”But like I said, a win does a lot of things to help the morale.”
The U.S. was missing midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Clint Dempsey, who remained with their MLS teams and are expected to join the national team ahead of Tuesday’s exhibition against Brazil at Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Jermaine Jones played well in his first national team match since he was a center back against Panama on Feb. 8. Back in a defensive midfield role, Jones started and stayed in until the 72nd minute. Jones missed two months of the Major League Soccer season, returned Aug. 1 following two hernia operations and had played just 122 minutes over three matches since then for New England.
Klinsmann started Michael Orozco at right back and kept the rest of his defensive line the same as in the penalty-kicks loss to Panama in the Gold Cup third-place match in July: Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks were in the center, and Tim Ream was on the left.
Outside backs DaMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson and Tim Chandler are hurt. Geoff Cameron, who skipped the Gold Cup at the request of Stoke, entered at right back for the start of the second half.
”It’s kind of the way things are with us, that we never really get the same group together,” Klinsmann said. ”I think all of them did fine. There’s a good energy there.”
NOTE: St. Vincent and the Grenadines beat visiting Aruba 2-0 in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying matchup, which finishes Tuesday. The U.S. opens qualifying against the winner on Nov. 13 in St. Louis. The group also includes Trinidad and Tobago and the winner of the third-round Antigua and Barbuda-Guatemala pairing. Host Antigua won 1-0 Friday in the first leg on a 72nd-minute penalty kick by Myles Weston, awarded by American referee Armando Villarreal. … In another first-leg qualifier, Gold Cup finalist Jamaica lost 3-2 at home to Nicaragua.