Fear grips the U.S. National Team fan base. The one "established" striker the side has, a young and mostly unproven talent with just a few international goals to his name, sprained an ankle in training.
If Jozy Altidore is unable to go against England on June 12th, Bob Bradley may be forced to play one or both of his best midfielders out of position, or start some combination of three strikers with a grand total of three international goals and less than ten caps between them.
The only thing that comes to mind is something involving "boots" and "shaking"? It certainly applies.
It doesn't take much to test the nerves of an on-edge fan base like that of the U.S. Germany 2006 is still relatively fresh in most minds, and while this team would appear to be the Americans' most talented to date, there are no certainties that it will transfer over to World Cup success.
A few ill-timed injuries and a bad break or two, and Bradley's boys could fall flat. An injury to one of the presumed starting strikers is a staggering blow, even if initial reports made it seem much more serious than it actually is. Then again, propaganda machines are in full stroke with teams now on the ground in South Africa.
The room for doubt, and deciding how much trust should be placed in US Soccer, leaves fans feverish with concern.
Jozy's status is listed as "day-to-day", which is American injury parlance for not quite ruled out, but certainly not fit. He'll be evaluated daily, and ostensibly still has a chance to play against the Aussies in the final warm up on Saturday. That seems unlikely, and with the striker core as thin as it is, risking Altidore's chances for a quick and full recovery would be downright insane.
Though Robbie Findley showed well against the Turks last weekend, and Herculez Gomez scored against the Czechs a few days prior, the scoring punch of the American front line is wanting, and that's being supremely kind.
Altidore's greatest claim to fame is the goal he scored against Spain in last year's Confederations Cup final. Iberian indifference or not, the Americans showed something that should bode well for their chances of a positive trip (i.e., a quarterfinals appearance). They know the lay of the land. They've beaten top opposition recently enough for it to provide confidence. Talisman Landon Donovan has never played better than he's playing right now.
But an Altidore-sized crack in the armor, without a readily available substitute to patch it, could be enough to strip away all of those good feelings.
Next in line might be LA Galaxy's Edson Buddle, who literally scored his way on to the U.S. roster with a blazing start to the Major League Soccer season (nine goals scored in nine games); not quite Altidore's equal in pure ability, he can hold the ball up adequately and has enough speed and skill the threaten a defense. Buddle is a perceived step back from Altidore in most meaningful ways, but he does have that soaring confidence and rampant form going for him.
Saturday final tune-up against the Aussies, a team capable of giving Bradley and his team a formidable challenge, will indicate which way the coach is leaning on an emergency replacement for Altidore. With a little luck and plenty of rest, he may not need that replacement against England on the 12th; but with his best striker now nursing a bum ankle, there's no reason not to run a backup plan through its paces.