The USA's Jermaine Jones (blue jersey) challenges Cyle Larin of Canada during their international friendly on February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
CARSON, California -- It needed very late goals in two separate games, but victories over Iceland and Canada, respectively, represented the first time since 2012 that the United States opened the year with two straight wins.
On Friday, Jozy Altidore’s 89th minute header off a cross from Ethan Finlay gave the Americans a 1-0 triumph over their visiting neighbor to the north.
The result ended a lengthy U.S. training camp on a positive note, creating good vibes ahead of a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala next month.
“Everyone takes this as a head start and got four weeks under their belt,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the Canada encounter. “They all worked really well. The whole spirit of the camp was great. I think they got rewarded tonight. We told them they’ve got to be patient. It is what it is. The more the game goes on, (Canada’s) going to get more defensive and make it more difficult.”
Klinsmann’s side leads its fourth-round World Cup Qualifying group on goal difference over Trinidad & Tobago after two games each (four points, GD: +4 to +1). The U.S. can put some distance between itself and the third-place Guatemalans (3 points) with wins on March 25 and 29, when it is expected to field a more experienced side.
“This is about the bigger picture,” the 51-year-old German noted. “That we are well prepared for Guatemala. Obviously, we’ll have the European players coming in.”
One of the bright spots has been the play of Altidore, who netted in both to take his international goal total to 33.
“He looked good the whole camp,” Klinsmann finished. “He's hungry, wants to prove himself. He deserved that goal (against Canada).”