After going on a two-year scoring drought with the national team, the young striker scored the opener to lead the U.S. team to the top of the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal.SEATTLE -- Jozy Altidore is on fire and the United States is riding the striker's newly found confidence as it inches closer to clinching a spot in next year's World Cup.
After failing to score for the national team for two years, Altidore tallied his third goal in three games to jump start the U.S. to a much-needed 2-0 victory over Panama in a World Cup qualifier at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday.
Eddie Johnson, who plays for the hometown Seattle Sounders, added the USA's second strike in the 53rd minute in front of 40,847 fans, the seventh-largest home crowd in U.S. World Cup qualifying history.
"Obviously very pleased with our performance," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Throughout the entire game, we were in control of every area on the field. The guys did their job."
The U.S., which defeated Jamaica on the road five days earlier, moves into first place in the Hexagonal standings with 10 points following a draw between Mexico and Costa Rica earlier in the night.
"Right now we're having fun. But most importantly we're on the same page and have one common goal which is qualifying for the World Cup," Johnson said. "We've got one more game to put ourselves in a good position to make that happen."
Altidore opened the scoring in the 36th minute off a brilliant transition play. It started with Michael Bradley opening up the pitch before finding Fabian Johnson, who delivered a low cross to Altidore at the back post. Moments earlier, Altidore was denied a potential penalty kick.
Coming off a 31-goal season at club AZ Alkmaar, Altidore had finally found his scoring touch with the national team after tallying against Germany in a friendly earlier this month and against the Reggae Boyz in Kingston on Friday. He had entered the camp on a 24-month run-of-play scoring drought.
"I know how forwards think. These guys live for goals. They can give the same performance, but if one game they score, in the other game they don't, they're going to be happy when they score," Bradley said. "He's such an important guy for our team, even on nights when he doesn't (score)."
Playing without Jermaine Jones, who suffered a concussion against Jamaica, and the suspended Graham Zusi, Klinsmann needed to make two changes to his lineup from the previous two games. It had been the first time in the Klinsmann era that the U.S. had the same starting XI in back-to-back games.
Klinsmann decided to go with Geoff Cameron and Eddie Johnson as replacements, and his decisions paid off as the pair worked together to give the Americans a two-goal cushion early in the second half.
Playing at the defensive midfielder spot, Cameron delivered a long, over-the-top pass to Johnson down the right side of the pitch, leaving the veteran one-on-one with Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Johnson controlled the ball and easily beat Penedo for his 11th World Cup qualifying goal.
"I saw Geoff had time with the ball and it was on his strong foot... I knew I could make a run in behind and I like my chances running without the ball behind the defense," Johnson said.
Panama, playing without leading scorer Blas Perez, struggled offensively for much of the night but did manage to nearly score an equalizer at the end of the first half when Luis Tejada got behind the U.S. defensive and beat Tim Howard, but the offside flag was up before the shot was in the net.
Panama also nearly scored in second-half stoppage time, but Howard saved Rolando Blackburn's shot.
The Americans will host Honduras next Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah.