Wait, that can't be right, can it?
This is, after all, a guy who's tearing up the Dutch Eredivisie right now. Altidore, a powerful, immensely athletic 22-year-old striker, has scored eight goals in seven league matches this season for AZ Alkmaar.
For comparison's sake, the rest of Altidore's AZ teammates have scored six goals all together.
But it's not just Altidore's goal scoring. The big striker has appeared in 17 straight U.S. qualifiers, and the next longest active streak on the team stands at four.
In other words, Altidore is—make that was—an important part of this team.
Something clearly isn't right here, and after releasing his squad Monday, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann let both Altidore and the world know what.
“I communicated to Jozy I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," said Klinsmann (via USSoccer.com). "I think Jozy can do much, much better."
Klinsmann has a point there. Altidore has not scored in six U.S. matches this year, and he has contributed only one assist.
Altidore's overall scoring record with the U.S. looks only somewhat better. In 51 caps with the senior squad, he has scored 13 times.
But Altidore's overall scoring record wasn't necessarily a factor in Klinsmann's decision. He continued:
The reason he’s not coming in is mainly because of his performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training, and also certain things that went on through the May-June camp. We decided to bring in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon and give them a chance to show how much they have improved. They’re both doing very well in MLS right now.
If league form were Klinsmann's only deciding factor, Altidore would be in the U.S. team. With the Americans stuck in a three-way tie atop their group in CONCACAF semifinal-round qualifying, points are at a premium. Hot strikers are thus a luxury.
But based on Klinsmann's comments, and the fact that he called out Altidore publicly, we have to believe that something negative happened in training sometime this year. It's unclear whether that means Altidore showed a poor attitude or clashed with Klinsmann himself, but it's clear that Klinsmann is displeased with Altidore.
It's fair to point out that in his recent matches with the U.S., Altidore has not received the amount and quality of service he's been receiving with AZ. What's more, AZ's playing style and formation are more suited to Altidore.
The counter-argument for all that is simple. Tottenham Hotspur forward Clint Dempsey is the top U.S. player at the moment, and when he isn't receiving enough service at the international level, he has been known to drop into the midfield in order to assert himself on the match.
Altidore doesn't do that, at least not with the U.S. With the U.S., he's strong and athletic yet somewhat one-dimensional, and as Klinsmann hinted, his attitude might not be quite right.
“Obviously I’m disappointed in the decision,” Altidore said (per Boston Herald). "At the same time, I fully support the team in their efforts to get six points from the next two games so we can advance to the final round."
That's the kind of soundbyte you like to hear from a player who's been snubbed. Perhaps Klinsmann's decision has already made the desired impact and when Altidore returns to the team, he'll return a motivated man.
If so, it will turn out to be the right decision. But what happens if the U.S. crashes out of qualifying this time next week?
For Klinsmann, that risk is apparently worth taking.
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