Jozy shows he's still the man up front

By Paul Kennedy

U.S. soccer fans have a love-hate relationship with most of their big stars.

For every fan who loved Landon Donovan as the greatest American player of all time, you could find another who thought he was a wuss for failing in Germany.

Fans are equally divided about Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. For all the success they've had on the national team -- they started in their first World Cups at the ages of 22 and 20, respectively -- their European careers had their ups and downs and they both ultimately returned to MLS.

Even their national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, expressed his dismay that U.S. stars were leaving the place "where the top players in the world play" and insisted they had to show that they had not dropped a level. Klinsmann was speaking in late 2014 and referred to Toronto FC's first season with Bradley as "a huge disappointment."

Klinsmann could have said the same thing about Altidore's first season at Toronto FC in 2015. For two years, the U.S. striker dealt with injuries and personal issues, and his first year back in MLS reached a low point when Klinsmann pulled him off of the U.S. roster in the middle of the Gold Cup. Altidore also received three red cards -- two for dissent and one for kicking Revs defender Jose Goncalves.

To Altidore's credit, though, he has bounced back. He got a break between seasons, which he had not gotten in 2015, and he shed 10 pounds, coming into the January camp in great shape. He scored the opening goal in the USA's 3-2 win over Iceland and had the late winner that broke a scoreless deadlock against Canada.

Friday's game against Canada was a microcosm of Altidore's career. He missed several chances but then delivered in the clutch. In the first half, he had a shot that hit the near post, then bounced off young Canadian keeper Maxime Crepeau and hit the same post again, but he also had two open headers in the second half that he was mad at himself for putting wide.

“It was one of those games where we felt we were always there on the doorstep,” Altidore said after leaping high to put away Ethan Finlay's cross in the 88th minute. “That bit of sharpness wasn't there: the last pass, the last cross. But to win the game the manner we did was kind of fitting, to end the camp on kind of a real positive high.”

Klinsmann said Altidore's winning goal was his reward for having a strong January camp.

“He looked good the whole camp, he looked good against Iceland, and he hit the post already after, I don't know, 20 minutes of the game,” Klinsmann said afterward. “So we knew he gets his chances and, hopefully, sooner or later he puts one in the back of the net. I mean, he took a little bit his time."

Altidore's goal gave him 34 goals in 92 appearances for the USA. It tied him for third place with Eric Wynalda on the all-time U.S. scoring list behind Donovan (57) and Clint Dempsey (48). Altidore is still only 26, and his next goal this year will make him the youngest U.S. player to score 35 goals.

Altidore should get plenty of chances. There will be World Cup qualifiers in March and September and likely more in November with the start of the Hexagonal. The Copa Centenario in June will be his chance to erase the memories of the 2015 Gold Cup, a disappointment for him individually and for the USA, which finished fourth.

“He wants to prove himself," added Klinsmann, "that this is 2016, 'This is my year.' He knows there's a huge tournament coming up in June, so he started really on the right foot this year. And he deserved that goal; he deserved it. He was trying hard, he missed a couple, then he put it in.”
20 comments about "Jozy shows he's still the man up front".
  1. Wooden Ships, February 7, 2016 at 8:36 a.m.

    All true Paul. While I'm desirous of a more skilled forward with better instincts, it appears that JK will stick with him. It's at the expense of developing a different attacking style though. If we insist on continuing this direction it will also be at the expense of younger more talented combination forwards/strikers. I feel defending Jozy in the way we utilize and depend upon him is not that a great a challenge for experienced defenders. It's also a bit of a stretch, I think, to compare the Gold Cup to what we be here this summer. I don't have a love-hate relationship with Jozy, I'm glad for what he's accomplished, but when will he get to the point of having scored 3 or 4 the other night? In the near future are his deficiencies suddenly going to go away? While I wish the guys well, JK is either sailing to new wonderous horizons or into the abyiss by insisting on staying with the same ole same ole.

  2. Kevin Sims, February 7, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    ETHAN FINLAY delivered the perfect ball to Altidore

  3. beautiful game replied, February 7, 2016 at 3:49 p.m.

    If Jozy is the man, than we more from him. He'll score once in a while, but what does he bring to the table at every game? I know that service to him is rarely on the money, but with his size and a better game prep approach could be what the doctor ordered.

  4. Lou vulovich, February 7, 2016 at 1:19 p.m.

    All American, you are pointing out some really great things. I have heard complaining about our youth system for 25 years, but nothing has ever changed. It is always controlled by east coast and west coast, New Jersey, New Hampshire, California with a couple of states here and there.
    It's not our youth that is the problem, it's the corrupt ineffective people in charge.
    Where I disagree with you is that klinsmann has done nothing to change the youth system. He has just reinfrced the same ineffective system.

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, February 7, 2016 at 3:37 p.m.

    Gentlemen: For some unfathomable reason, instead of looking ahead, and I will use the editorial "we" seem to look back. Every one of us has a right to express our viewpoints, an inalienable right, and I am sure we respect others. My biggest gripe and concern, and I am here speaking as a 46-year retired professor of history, is that yes, it is said that in order not to repeat the past we must study the past. I won't pontificate here. However, folks tend to always need to us regular writers as well as professional reporters about this and that happened some years ago. To this end, Lou is 100% correct, as is Wooden Ships, and also AA. Yet, why must we always get caught in what was then, we shoulda, coulda, but didn't? 25 years ago? AA, you're barely going back to the very early 90's! Heck this has been going on since the late '60s and much more into the '70s! Has anything changed for the better, now I may be somewhat naive here, but yes, there have been some changes in number growth in our sport. It takes time, and it ain't gonna happen over night to change, 'cause change IS inevitable, and change IS upon us, and as for JK changing the youth system, consider how long he's been on the job, and how much time and energy (you know for every action there is a reaction...) it must take to effect change. Just saying, and PLAY ON!!!

  6. Wooden Ships replied, February 7, 2016 at 4:59 p.m.

    That's my view too Lou. I'm more than willing to lose some matches while transitioning to the possession game. After all, our youth will try to emulate much of what they see at the national level. Maybe that's where Jurgen has succombed to winning as much as possible/sounds familiar with younger kids and the winning the goal. Like Ric, I go back to the 50's, 60's and present. We've always had technical creative players, but they didn't fit the model many of the coaches chose (European direct style, lots of long balls). Not sure if JK had a mandate but he has chosen his style of preference and the teams in our qualifying-hexagonal have more technical creative play. We are still playing Russian roulette, pun intended. AA, definitely training compensation, but I sometimes wonder if we as the adults are taking this more serious than the players, which does and will diminish their passion for playing. Over coaching over thinking. Have we had some Messi like forwards and others here in the last 60 years? I think we have, or close to, but haven't been supported and encouraged like their taller, faster, stronger peers. I know this for a fact. AA, you're right it's about selection early on. And the fact that it hasn't happened over the last 40 years specifically is why I was hopeful that JK recognized this when he came aboard. But he went to his default position which was his style of play. I think the non native coach that he is and the wrath he has incurred since taking the helm has changed his mind about the national team and subsequently youth direction. That was to much, my head hurts now.

  7. Kent James, February 7, 2016 at 4:11 p.m.

    It is hard to fault JK for sticking with Jozy, since like it or not, he's delivered more than anyone else. It is a fair point to say we play a different style with him on the field (size & strength, holding ability instead of speed), but until all the potential replacements demonstrate they're more effective than he is, JK is right to use him. We don't have the players to attack like Suarez, Messi and Neymar (I know, who (besides Barcelona) does?), but even with Jozy on the field, those quick players can demonstrate their abilities (Zardes, for example, has been given ample opportunity and just isn't quite there yet). And last night, while Jozy did miss one free header, he actually had a number of nice passes to set up teammates (much better in this area than he's been), with the flick to Morris particularly deft for the big man...

  8. Ric Fonseca, February 7, 2016 at 4:31 p.m.

    All American, yes I feel that we're headed in the right direction, the right road but with a lot of potholes, and you've just touched on a topic I am very much and well aware of, and that is the "so-called scouting system," that I together with almost 200 coaches that comprised the Latin american soccer coaches association (LASCA) with very knowledgable coaches from various colleges and universities and affiliated and unaffiliated leagues, embarked on such a program and then US Soccer Pres Alan Rothenberg and US Soccer Exec Director Hank Steinbrecher supported our efforts, and at one NSCAA meeting if I remember correctly in DC, we even had Fernando Clavijo, Bora Miltuniovic,even Paul Gardner attend one of our meetings.
    Sadly as things would have our group was subsumed by NSCAA to form their diversity group of coaches. As for the scouts, only one or two remain from that group, Juan Carlos Michia and Rene Miramontes, many of us retired with hopes that the scouts would be incorporated into the US Soccer format, but it fell to the wayside. To hire scouts, unless US Soccer loosens its purse strings and stops being so danged stingy, yes a cadre of scouts can be implemented by region; like the ProRefsOrg (PRO) you'd need to hire them full time, pay they accordingly, cover their travel and per diem to include lodging. Then again, this is what US Soccer looks at: the bottom line and know what amigo, it won't happen, and we'll revert to the old recreational and volunteerism that has been more of a hindrance and a boon. So, what to do, what to do? turn to corporate sponsorship? Sure why not, but who will be hired to contact-negotiate? What about the huge surplus that continues to grow through interest, that of the 1984 OLympics? Look it up, they've a pretty hefty balance! Now hee's a thought!

  9. Ric Fonseca, February 7, 2016 at 4:37 p.m.

    P.S. Re the 1984 LA Olympics, one of the conditions of that IOC event held in my fair City was that any surplus was to be set aside and help fund all kinds of sport in the inner cities. The LAOOC received, if I remember correctly, more than 90 million bucks in surplus funds, they bought and opened up a very nice headquarters, Anita DeFranz was the Exec Director, YET, they've been literally unable to distribute at least the principal, but have distirbuted the interest earned from that nice nest egg. Has soccer in the inner cities grown in the Los Angeles areas? Yes, Due to the largess of the LAOOC Funds? Not to my knowledge. So as usual, just sayin'!

  10. Lou vulovich, February 7, 2016 at 5:08 p.m.

    There are many ways to improve all aspects of youth soccer in this country, but implementation of anything other what they have established would potentially cause them to loose controll.
    So nothing will happen because it's the same people playing musical chairs, shuffling jobs and making money. That is what it's really about. Protecting each other's inequities, doing favors and pocketing as much money as possible. National Teams are secondary at every age.

  11. Wooden Ships replied, February 7, 2016 at 5:25 p.m.

    Sounds right Lou. Back to AA's emphasis on training compensation. But, wouldn't that require to some extent the type coaching I had playing in the 60's and 70's in St. Louis. The type that had a real love of the game and professional and national team experience, in this and other countries. The coaches of those great club teams didn't draw salaries they had day jobs. Players weren't selected because they could afford it. There wasn't much expense/cost at all. It was about ability and desire. I think only the USSF has the power to change this ludicrous pay to play model.

  12. Ric Fonseca replied, February 7, 2016 at 6:01 p.m.

    Lou and Woddie, Amen! Now if they would dare and put us in charge, no, really, all we have to look forward to is the complete and total benefit of soccer development and bringing-taking the US as a futbol-soccer country. Here's a not too old of an example: when my son joined a local soccer club, the annual fee was $65.00. Recently, the very same club now charges somewhere in the vicinity of $2,000 for a ten month stint, the kids MUST attend the club-mandated training sessions, so many tournaments, and also pay for the cost of uniforms, bags, warm ups, etc. Do their players - some of them do - end up playing for Di, II, or even III teams? Look it up. Player development? Nope.

  13. Molly Wilsbacher, February 7, 2016 at 10:30 p.m.

    How about getting your facts correct, Paul? Ethan Finlay fed Jozy the beautiful perfect cross!!!

  14. Kevin Sims, February 8, 2016 at 8:38 a.m.

    Agree completely with Kent James ... forwards are to produce goals ... so let's see others surpass Jozy in that regard to earn that spot

  15. Goal Goal, February 8, 2016 at 8:45 a.m.

    I didn't know where else to ask this question but how come we did not have a critique on U19 fiasco with France?

  16. Joe Linzner, February 8, 2016 at 1:38 p.m.

    I don't know what is expected of JK, when he uses youth he get's criticized, when he uses older players he get's criticized. Just go and log on to Big soccer and you'll get a snootfull of what must be done. Anything JK has done is plain wrong according to them. What is a fact is that JK has not been on the job long enough to create anything on the youth front. We still have AYSO and their absolutely friutless way of coaching. It is a babysitting organization that actually hinders teaching basics with their concern that everyone plays, regardless of talent. In other countries licenses are needed to coach a sport. Even Highschool is not a learning facility. The two HSs with which I was personally involved required a teaching certificate but absolutely no soccer knowledge. THen book learning takes over without any ability to show anyone a correct way of basic soccer. When you have an11th grader that does not know how to use the outside of the foot to kick a ball at that age there is Nothing a coach can do to affect a game. the Basic problem is that we do not grow up with a soccer ball under our arms and pushing it around on the way home from school or in the morning an the way to school as I did... The infrastructure for soccer just does not exist here. For me it was homework, chores and then soccer until we no longer coulkd see the ball....In school recess lunch any free time the soccerball rolled..... That probably has changed since I went to school in the old country but that is how I grew to love soccer. Here in the US it just one more sport without a big payday in the future. It is changing ever so slowly. In the country in which I grew up, every town has a team with youth teams, Jr. reserves, reserves and first teams which constitutes a continual learning curve the minute you get to join and you have to show talent. Start messing around and you no longer belong.... those with talent go on and those without do not. There is no babysitting. You contribute, conform and learn.... That won't happen here.. Totally different approach.... in soccer for sure.. When every burg in the US follows with such an approach then change will happen. Think LA alone, how many communities there alone, with so many different ethnic communities running a gamut of international origins there could be hundreds of teams all of which could field teams from the young to seniors..... There is a difference in the way I see soccer and the way an American born person does. Call me a Euro-snob or anything else that you will but there is certainly a difference in the way we see games and play. I do not see Altidore as a talent. Rewatch the game and isolate on him and you'll see that his touch is less than 20% effective. Out of 20 chances he' will get 4 correct. that is not high quality. How many touches how many successful reception result in a shot on goal?? The he heads a given and he is an American ace... how many did he miss???

  17. Wooden Ships replied, February 8, 2016 at 2:51 p.m.

    Absolutely right Joe, with regard to JA. We have settled for that and I believe we have higher percent forwards. Well, JK has settled for that. I would love to see us field players, which again I believe we have, that can keep possession and switch and probe for more than 5 passes in the final third.

  18. Joe Linzner, February 8, 2016 at 6:20 p.m.

    All American.. How would you propose that he could have done that and if he could have how are you convinced that your way is the way to go. I agree that the pay to play system in place today is not productive. The point is this. I object to the Acadamy system. It does not produce talent, it produces robots which cannot think beyond a busted X and O diagram. We have to get past the hobby sport and everybody plays scenarion. Just as you said why couldn't he? Have you paid attention to BS? Anything he proposes and has suggested is treated as blasphemy. He has the supposed title but absolutely no power to rock the ship. He is in my opinion merely a figurehead with ZERO power to affect change. The pay to play people oppose any changes affecting their pocket books. Back in the early 60s, I played on an ethnic juniorteam after hetting here from the old country, was recruited as a tenth grader right out of Belmont HS by a junior coach. Uniforms sponsored by Seven-Up. Shoes donated by club, practice three times a week, games on sunday. Transportation on us. Relatives provided car/vanpools and older players. We all chipped in for gas money etc. None of us were rich, but soccer was in our blood. Clubs promoted talented players, dropped the non players.... Everything was worked for, nothing was given and money did not talk but talent did. The current system builds journeymen, not talent and it is obvious on the field. I do not know of a solution and even if there is one. I know this though, you can't pay for talent in a youngster and you can lead a player to a field but you can't make him play if everything is given to him.... It must be in the heart.

  19. Bob Ashpole, February 8, 2016 at 10:58 p.m.

    Who writes the headlines? This was a friendly match against Canada, who haven't been to a finals since it's first trip 30 years ago. Scoring (finally) and winning is better than the alternatives, but, aside from Finlay's immediate impact, I saw little to be confident about.

  20. Joe Linzner, February 9, 2016 at 9:33 a.m.

    what is the purpose of a friendly game? Both games, Iceland and Canada showed that the US can play entertaining and energetic soccer. Uing a blend of experience and young untested lineups showed that we can transition into a linear game away from the bunker and run or kick and hope game of soccer based on endurance and lack of skill. If thatis not plain to see, one would suggest less than 20/20 vision or a deliberate denial of what is obvious to me. The argument that using Jermaine Jones is asinine, especially in a full back position is myopic. He is our most active and involved player who gives more than 100% every game! He makes mistakes, not more or fewere than any other player but he works hard to recover, in contrast to Jozy Altidore who loses the ball and meanders or stops running instead of pursuing. Thediffering standards applied to differnt players is for me an indication of blind bias. For a team set up to feed a single forward and the clear chance and half chances he wastes yet is rated highly by the vaunted media talking nickels is for me hilarious. It is time to transition away from the players that wasted 2015 into those who honestly love playing for the US, keeping only those that show committment every single game. Time for our youngsters to take up the yoke.

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