Altidore tries something different

By Paul Kennedy

The skies were gray all day on Tuesday at StubHub Center, but for Jozy Altidore they seemed like sunny California.

Less than a week earlier, he was still at Sunderland, languishing on the Black Cats' bench for the second season in a row. He'd been rescued in part because of the recommendation of his longtime teammate on the U.S. national team, Michael Bradley. And a couple of days after arriving in Canada to join Toronto FC, he was whisked off to join Bradley at the national team's January camp.

What's different about California from England? "It's not dark all the time," he said.

Sunderland marked the darkest period in six-plus years in Europe that featured more failures (one goal in each of his stints at Villarreal, Hull City and Bursaspor) than successes (39 league goals in two seasons at AZ in the Netherlands).

"I think it was tough for everyone at Sunderland," he told reporters after practice at the Champions Lounge in the basement of StubHub Center. "If you go down the line, I don't think anybody has it easy there. It's a tough place to play. There's no other way to put it. But I still was appreciative of it. The fans were fantastic, the stadium was great, and I thank everybody there for when I was there and how they treated me."

Italian Paolo Di Canio signed Altidore from AZ for the 2013-14 season, but Di Canio didn't last until the end of September. Altidore was coming off a hot summer with the national team, scoring winning goals in key World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Honduras and a hat trick against Bosnia-Herzegovina, but he never found his stride with the Black Cats, scoring just one goal in 39 English Premier League matches and three goals in 52 matches in all competitions.

"It didn't go as anybody planned," he said of Di Canio's quick exit and replacement by Gus Poyet, the current Sunderland manager. "There were ideas, a way to play, and after a month, it got thrown out the window. I don't think it was how anybody wanted it to go."

Altidore didn't even dress for Sunderland in the 2014 League Cup final against Manchester City and was at one point dropped to Sunderland's U-21s.

“It was tough," he said, "because everywhere I go I feel like people are always critical of me, and that’s just the situation I’ve been in since I was 16. But I think over there, I think the toughest thing is mentally how to stay in it because everybody is so negative all the time about everything. You know the English media. They’re not happy about anything. They can win 5-0, and they’re still not happy. So I think the ability to kind of deal with all that and look at the bigger picture of where I want to go as a person and knowing this isn’t the end all be all. It’s not, no matter what people tell you. I just felt like I had to make sure that mentally I stayed in it and stayed sharp.”

For now, Altidore is in familiar territory with Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler, all starters at the World Cup.

"You've got the Gold Cup [in 2015], Copa America [in 2016], the Confederations Cup [in 2017] and then the [2018] World Cup," he said. "It's the best time to be a national team player. It's the best time right now in our league. I felt like this was a good time to take the jump."

Even at last summer's World Cup in Brazil, Altidore said he and Bradley would joke about playing together in Toronto. In October, things got serious.

“I think [Jermain] Defoe obviously was unhappy," said Altidore of the England striker who went to Sunderland in the deal that brought him back to MLS. "And then I had got a text from Michael, ‘Would you ever be interested in coming to MLS?’ That’s when I kind of started thinking about it."

Altidore and Bradley had played together in Toronto in 2007 when the USA reached the quarterfinals of the Under-20 World Cup, so he knows the city.

“The thing about it was I think Toronto is just unique, being the fact that organization has not had a lot of success," he said. "I mean, I’m not happy about that. But the opportunity there I thought was a big challenge: to play now with Michael, kind of share that load, and to have a guy like [Italian Sebastian] Giovinco coming in, you’ve got a good nucleus there, and I thought that was a pretty cool challenge to kind of help flip a franchise that has an incredible amount of support, an incredible amount of backing from the corporate side and I thought that was an incredible challenge. Something different.”
5 comments about "Altidore tries something different".
  1. Rick Estupinan, January 21, 2015 at 4:21 p.m.

    Well,the thing is that like he says "since I was 16,everybody has been critical of me",and that includes the Haitian,National team who did not want him on their national team.For MLS standards I guess he is been okay.He has scored goals,yes,some that have help Clinsmann more than the US National team in general.

  2. cisco martinez, January 22, 2015 at 11:23 a.m.

    I think Altidore should be playing to improve his game; and playing for Sunderland and not consistently playing didn't help him. Maybe coming back and playing in the MLS will help revitalize his scoring touch.

  3. Nalin Carney, January 22, 2015 at 7:50 p.m.

    I loved going to the stadium and watching Jozy play for the red bulls or metrostars (i don't remember which team)...but at the time I thought he was a little lazy. That has certainly gone away and I am glad to see him back in MLS where he will probably be playing every game. He will be around longer than Jurgan, and that I will be glad of.

  4. John DiFiore, January 23, 2015 at 2:58 a.m.

    "Something different". Haha. Like "playing and scoring"?? And this talk about helping TFC win something... oh like at Sunderland?? Seba will do the scoring (and high pressing) while you....well, don't.

  5. Daniel Clifton, January 23, 2015 at 2:55 p.m.

    I believe the problem Altidore had with Sunderland was the way he was used or not used and especially the lack of service. When he is the recipient of service he scores. That has been the case with the National Team. When he is given no service he doesn't score. When the service is provided Jozi I lighting it up.

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