Analyzing Jozy Altidore's Importance to the USMNT
At just 23 years old, Jozy Altidore is turning into a crucial part of the United States men's national team.
Altidore, who has been a vagabond at the club level, has finally found his role with the Yanks on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The past 12 months have seen the American forward undergo somewhat of a career renaissance, if one can have that at the young age of 23.
Altidore finally found a level of consistency at the club level with AZ Alkmaar and propelled his spectacular final season in Holland into an amazing summer with the Yanks.
The main turning point on the international stage for the forward came back on June 2 when he delivered his first goal for the United States in over two years in a friendly against Germany.
That goal was a result of the high level of confidence that he had been playing with at the club level, and the physicality that he brings to the table.
At 6'1" and 174 pounds, Altidore is a player who demands a physical style of play, which is something that the Americans were searching for during the first two years of the Jurgen Klinsmann era.
There is no doubt that the Americans have a strong group of talented midfielders, a group that is highlighted by the likes of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, but until that Germany match, they did not have a confident, physical forward to feed the ball to.
Altidore has been all that and more since the Germany match, leaving any sight of his former self at the international level behind.
The 23-year-old also possesses something that no other American forward has consistently had in the last few years: confidence in his abilities.
Since his move to the Eredivisie to play with AZ Alkmaar, Altidore gained a consistent starting position and a chance to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
He did just that in Holland, and as he continued to score over the summer, he taught his fellow international teammates a lesson in how to play the forward position.
Altidore's main competition at forward for the World Cup will be Eddie Johnson, who is a player who historically has had trouble with confidence at the highest levels.
Yes, Johnson has gone through a recent spell of good form with the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer, but for the majority of his career his play has been inconsistent.
The newcomer on the American forward block is Aron Johannsson, who is essentially Altidore's replacement at the club level after the 23-year-old traded in the kit of AZ Alkmaar for the one of English Premier League club Sunderland.
Johannsson has so far possessed the same qualities that Altidore had at the club level, and he could end up challenging him for his starting position in the future.
But for now, Johannsson will be able to learn from Altidore, which is something we never thought we would see 12 months ago.
Altidore has also shown diversity in his goal-scoring abilities during the last year with the United States.
While we all knew about his physical abilities, no one quite expected how good the free-kick talents of Altidore were until he struck a beauty of a goal in the Yanks' August friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Right now, Altidore is the perfect package for the United States as he provides a big, physical body to send passes forward as well as a body on set pieces to make something out of nothing.
You can argue that some other players like Michael Bradley are more valuable than Altidore, but at the end of the day, if the 23-year-old is not healthy when the World Cup begins next summer, the Americans will be in loads of trouble.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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