[USA-GERMANY] For Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, it was a sweet victory over his former team. For U.S. Soccer, it marked a joyous 100th birthday celebration with 47,000 fans at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The USA scored three brilliant goals and were gifted a fourth -- a hilarious own goal by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen -- in its 4-3 friendly win over Germany. Clint Dempsey, the player who consistently delivers for the USA, scored two of them. But the man of the day was Jozy Altidore, whose play up front provides reason for optimism as the USA enters a three-game series of World Cup qualifiers.
Altidore scored his first professional goal at age 16, for MLS’s New York Red Bulls. He moved from MLS to Spain’s Villarreal on a $10 million transfer at age 18 in 2008 and his career has been a roller-coaster ever since.
When he couldn’t break into the Villarreal starting lineup, he was loaned to second division Xerez, which left him on the bench. Next was a loan to Hull City of the English Premier League, where he scored once in 28 appearances. Villarreal shipped him off to Turkey’s Bursaspor in 2011 where he managed a single goal.
Still, he contributed to the U.S. national team, famously scoring the winning goal against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinal, and he started all four games at the 2010 World Cup.
By the time Klinsmann took the U.S. helm, Altidore had scored 12 U.S. goals. When he joined Dutch club AZ Alkmaar on a $3 million transfer, his club career finally took off. In the 2012-13 season, he set a record for goals by an American abroad, with 31, the last of which was the gamewinner in the Dutch Cup final three weeks ago.
But entering the Germany game, he had gone 11 games without a goal. His only goal in the Klinsmann era was a penalty kick in November 2011 in a 3-2 win over Slovenia.
In the 13th minute against the Germans, Altidore finally got what had been so rare while playing for the USA -- good service in front of the goal. Graham Zusi delivered a cross that Altidore volleyed into the corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The own goal came three minutes later but in the second half the Germans narrowed the lead to 2-1. In the 60th minute, Altidore chipped a pass from the corner of the penalty area that Dempsey slammed into the German net.
In February 2012, when the USA beat Italy, 1-0, in a friendly it was Altidore who set up Dempsey for the gamewinner. But since then and the Germany game, Altidore for the USA was a forward who toiled futilely alone upfront and rarely received balls in scoring position. Despite his goals in the Netherlands, hopes that Altidore would be the scorer the USA desperately needed seemed to fade with each appearance. But in reality, the problem was that Altidore wasn’t getting the ball where he could be dangerous.
"We want him to have chances," Klinsmann said. "A lot of the games where he didn't score, he didn't have chances. … He's strong in the air and technically very, very gifted."
Altidore’s talents were discovered first in Florida by Austrian coach Josef Schulz who set up the Schulz Academy. While on a walk in the park with his wife, Schulz spotted the 8-year-old Altidore in a pickup game.
Schulz approached Jozy’s father, a Haitian immigrant, and said, "You might laugh at what I am about to say but one day your son is going to be on the U.S. national team. Bring him to our practice and see if you like it."
Altidore helped the Schulz Academy win the first of three straight Super-Y-League North American Championship before joining the U-17 national residency in Bradenton, Fla. He played in the 2005 U-17 World Cup before becoming an MLS teenage sensation for the New York Red Bulls. At the 2007 U-20 World Cup, he scored four goals.
In the years since, Altidore’s ability to consistently spearhead the U.S. attack have been questioned. The latest performance from a player who is only 23 years old make one optimistic. It depends mainly, however, on whether his teammates can get him the ball the way that Zusi did against the Germans.
‘DEUCE’ MOVES UP. Dempsey, nicknamed “Deuce” from the days when he wore the No. 2, is now second in all-time U.S scoring after his strikes against Germany:
USA All-Time leading Scorers
1. Landon Donovan 49
2. Clint Dempsey 35
3. Eric Wynalda 34
4. Brian McBride 30
5. Joe-Max Moore 24
6. Bruce Murray 21
7. DaMarcus Beasley 17
7. Earnie Stewart 17
9. Cobi Jones 15
10. Carlos Bocanegra 14
10. Eddie Johnson 14.
June 2 in Washington, D.C.
USA 4 Germany 3.
Goals: Altidore 13, own goal (ter Stegen) 16, Dempsey 60, Dempsey 65; Westermann 51, Kruse 78, Draxler 81.
USA-- Howard, Evans , Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley (Castillo, 56); Bradley, Jones, F.Johnson (Davis, 46), Zusi (E.Johnson, 56); Dempsey, Altidore (Boyd, 81)
Germany -- ter Stegen; Howedes, Jansen (Aogo, 46), Mertesacker (Wollsched, 46); Reinartz, Draxler, Schurrle (Sam, 65), Podolski, Bender (Westermann, 46), Bender (Kruse, 46); Klose (Mueller, 79).
Referee: Paul Delgadillo (Mexico)
June 7: Jamaica-USA
Kickoff: 9:30 pm ET.
TV: beIN Sport