Fitness delight for Sunderland’s Altidore

Jozy Altidore.
Jozy Altidore.

JOZY ALTIDORE has been handed a fitness boost after being cleared to participate in the USA’s World Cup qualifiers.

Altidore missed Sunderland’s defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday after complaining of a problem with his right hamstring, which was initially expected to sideline the £6million summer signing for a fortnight.

But, after linking up with the American medical team, an MRI scan on Altidore’s hamstring has shown there is no serious damage.

The 23-year-old has been given the go-ahead to resume training with the US squad and he will be eligible for the World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica on Friday and Mexico next Tuesday.

Presuming Altidore comes through the two games unscathed, the injury news on the former AZ Alkmaar man will come as a major boost to Sunderland after a rookie front-line of Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won struggled at Selhurst Park.

Wickham has since pulled out of the England Under-21 squad through injury, while both Steven Fletcher and new striker Fabio Borini are short on match fitness.

Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Belgium on Friday and Macedonia next week could have provided an opportunity for Fletcher to get further minutes under his belt after making a scoring comeback at Palace.

But after spending five months on the sidelines since damaging ankle ligaments in Scotland’s defeat to Wales in March, international boss Gordon Strachan has opted not to rush Fletcher back into action, particularly as the Tartan Army cannot qualify for next summer’s tournament in Brazil.

Assistant manager Mark McGhee said: “I asked Gordon could we do that (call up Fletcher) and Gordon considered it and ruled it out, that it was too early.

“If there was a lot riding on these two games, I think it might be different. In fact, I think Steven Fletcher, himself, might have been on the phone to Gordon saying he wants to come and maybe sit on the bench at worst.

“But we all felt, rightly, that he should be given time and that he will recover and get back to form and back to scoring goals again.

“We will take full advantage of Steven Fletcher in coming matches.”