USMNT: A Much-Needed Defense of Jozy Altidore

John D. HalloranContributor IIJuly 10, 2012

USMNT: A Much-Needed Defense of Jozy Altidore

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    One of the main talking points to emerge from the recent string of United States Men’s National Team games in May and June was the future of USMNT striker Jozy Altidore.

    Altidore was released late by his club, AZ Alkmaar, and joined the USMNT two weeks after the U.S. training camp had opened.

    That delay created an opening which Herculez Gomez used to put together several solid performances for the Nats and left many USMNT fans writing off Altidore.

    Here are some comments from recent articles about the USMNT:

    Altidor (sic) is a joke

    I would hate to be Klinnsman (sic) and have to choose a striker. OUTTHEDOOR is a sad excuse for one. He is lazy, does not defend and cannot raise the level of his game when needed. He needs to simply go away

    MOST OVERRATED PLAYER EVER…COMPLETE FIASCO

    He shoots like he has ricketts (sic) in his legs.

    Here are eight reasons USMNT fans need to take a deep breath, step back from the situation and give Jozy a break.

The Delay in Joining the USMNT Was Not Jozy’s Fault

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    After a stellar season by Altidore in the Eredivisie, his club, AZ Alkmaar, refused to release him until they were forced to do so, even though AZ’s season had ended weeks earlier.

    AZ justified their decision by saying that Altidore needed a break, and Jozy was caught in the crossfire between his contractual obligation to his club and the USMNT.

Jozy Has Grown Up a Lot in the Last Two Years

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    While one can certainly criticize Jozy’s play early in his USMNT career, over the past two years, it has been obvious that his game has become much more intricate than it had been in the past.

    In addition to his always strong ability to take on defenders and draw fouls in dangerous areas, Altidore has gotten much better at holding the ball up and laying it off for others, as evidenced by his assist for Clint Dempsey’s goal against Italy in February.

    While this might seem like a fairly obvious skill for a striker to have, it is something the U.S. desperately need when they play superior opponents so that the U.S. do not get pinned back in their own defensive third.

Jozy Has Become a Pretty Prolific Scorer

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    Because the Eredivisie is not broadcast on any mainstream sports package in the United States, many casual USMNT fans may be unaware of how strong a club season Jozy had this year.

    Here is a video of his 15 league goals for AZ this season.

    Jozy also had four goals in the Europa League for AZ this season.

Jozy IS a Big-Game Player

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    One thing the USMNT certainly need to become true contenders against top teams is someone who is able to raise his game when needed.

    Jozy has proven throughout his career, he can do just that.

    In addition to the assist in the USMNT victory over Italy, Jozy scored the game-winning goal against Spain (who were on a 35-match unbeaten streak, and in between their 2008 European championship and their 2010 World Cup championship) in the 2009 Confederations Cup. To do it, Jozy out-muscled a world-class defender and beat arguably the best keeper in the world.

    Those two games combined are two of the biggest wins in the history of the USMNT.

Jozy’s Contribution to the USMNT Is Undeniable

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    Don’t take my word for it—here are some recent stats and accomplishments.

    Jozy was the leading scorer for the U.S. in 2010 World Cup qualifying with six goals.

    At only 22 years old, Jozy has 49 caps and 13 goals for the USMNT.

    Jozy is 10th in all-time goals for the USMNT. Again, he is only 22.

    Jozy was the Man of the Match in two of the three group-stage Gold Cup games in 2011. Jozy only played 12 minutes during the knockout rounds due to injury.

    Jozy was Man of the Match in the now-famous U.S.-Algeria game. He also provided the initial service on Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal in that match.

    Jozy assisted on Michael Bradley’s game-tying goal against Slovenia in the second group stage game of the 2010 World Cup. Without that goal, the U.S. would have been eliminated prior to the U.S.-Algeria game.

    Here is a clip of Altidore’s gorgeous, and forgotten, knockdown leading to that goal.

    Jozy’s first USMNT goal was also against Mexico—always a plus for USMNT fans.

    Here is a link to that goal.

Jozy’s Club Career Is Already Full of Accomplishments

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    A comparison of Jozy's season to some other prolific Eredivisie players':

    • Jozy had 15 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 22.
    • Luis Suarez had 17 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 21.
    • Romario had 19 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 23.
    • Dennis Bergkamp had five goals, 13 goals and eight goals in his first three seasons in the Eredivisie, and had between 25-30 appearances in each of those seasons. (Jozy had 34 appearances this season).
    • Ruud van Nistelrooy had 13 goals in 31 appearances in the Eredivisie at age 22.

    Not bad company to be in.

    Jozy was also the first U.S. international to score in the Spanish La Liga. Here is a clip of that goal.

The Criticism from the Recent Guatemala Match Is Largely Unfair

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    Jozy was heavily criticized by many for his play in the recent Guatemala qualifier for his not running into the box to get on the end of a Michael Bradley service late in the game.

    However, it was obvious on that play that Jozy had changed his run because he thought Bradley was going to cut the ball back before serving it, and Jozy didn’t want to outrun the play.

    In the Guatemala game, Jozy also scored a goal which was incorrectly called back, as the referee did not properly allow for the U.S. advantage. Jozy was also taken down in the box by a Guatemalan defender, but the call was not given.

All in All…

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    USMNT fans need to take a deep breath and realize two things.

    First, that Altidore has already proven time and time again that he can compete at a very high level.

    Second, when he does slip up, he needs to be cut a break as he is only 22 years old and playing a position in which many strikers do not hit their peak until their late 20s.

    Besides, the USMNT has been notoriously shallow at the forward position. During Altidore’s days with the USMNT here are the forwards who have gotten a cap: Robbie Findley, Jeff Cunningham, Edson Buddle, Chris Wondolowski, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, C.J. Sapong, Brian Ching, Kenny Cooper, Conor Casey, Davy Arnaud, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan, Chris Rolfe, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff, Nate Jaqua, Chad Barrett and John Thorrington.

    Does anyone really want to go back to those guys?

    And, would it really be so terrible if the USMNT had three capable forwards in Altidore, Gomez and Dempsey?

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