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US uses guessing game with Jozy Altidore’s injury


SAO PAULO, Brazil — The news on Jozy Altidore’s strained hamstring was the same Wednesday as it was Tuesday, which is to say there’s no news.

Altidore left the field on a stretcher midway through the first half of the U.S. team’s opening-game win over Ghana on Monday and was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam the next day. Asked for an update Wednesday, a U.S. Soccer spokesman said, “It’s the same as yesterday” — which either means that MRIs take a long time in Brazil or U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is done talking about Altidore.

“Don’t anticipate an update prior to Jurgen’s flight home,” said one team official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Given the fickleness of Altidore’s left hamstring — he missed significant playing time in 2011 with a strain to the same muscle — his World Cup appears over. But if you’re Klinsmann why confirm that for Portugal, which the U.S. meets Sunday in the Amazonas capital of Manaus?

“I don’t want to go too deep into details, because obviously we want Portugal to guess a little bit as well,” Klinsmann said Tuesday. “But when one of your key players is not available, does it change certain things? Absolutely it does.

“We’ll still field 11, you know, we’re not a man down. We still have somebody coming in. We’ll find solutions.”

Against Ghana, the solution was Aron Johannsson, who rarely saw the ball after coming on for Altidore. If he plays again Sunday he’ll need to be more dangerous to take attention away from Clint Dempsey, who will be playing despite a broken nose. Another option is Chris Wondolowski, who isn’t as good a playmaker as Johannsson but is excellent around the net.

BESLER EXPECTED

TO PLAY

Though Altidore’s balky hamstring has left the U.S. hamstrung up front, the loss of central defender Matt Besler could be even more crippling. Besler limped through the final minutes of the first half Monday before coming out at the start of the second with a hamstring strain of his own.

He, too, was to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday. Although those results remain top-secret as well, Klinsmann said Besler will play Sunday. Without him, the U.S. backline would be significantly weakened going against a Portuguese team, led by reigning player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, that is desperate for goals.