Josmer Altidore's first full season in MLS is just three games old, but following an excellent performance against defending MLS champ Houston Dynamo in which he scored the only goal of the game, the Red Bulls striker is already being dressed up as U.S. soccer's next big export. As Ives Galarcep of the North Jersey Herald points out, we've been down this road before, and several times in the last five years.
Bobby Convey, Freddy Adu, Danny Szetela, Eddie Gaven and Eddie Johnson have all had "Next Big Thing" status bestowed on them, and to varying degrees each of these players struggled to live up to the unrealistic expectations. Galarcep points out that these guys were pegged with the label before any of them could buy alcohol-or in some cases, lottery tickets. None of this means that Altidore doesn't stand a chance of becoming the heralded "Next Big Thing," it's just that he'll need a lot of help.
Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena is understandably nervous about the ramifications of placing that kind of pressure on a young kind (Altidore is only 17-and still growing). Galarcep notes that Arena has been choosing his words very carefully when it comes to talking about the youngster. Fortunately for Altidore, he has three very important things going for him, Galarcep says: a levelheaded disposition, experienced teammates like Claudio Reyna, and a coach who knows how to bring players back down to earth.