Altidore draws raves after ending scoring drought

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photo by Steven Limentani/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It is not often that Jurgen Klinsmann utters the words “World Class”, but that is exactly how he described the second of Jozy Altidore’s two goals against Nigeria.

Altidore broke out of his highly-discussed scoring slump by bagging a brace in an overall impressive outing in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 2-1 win vs. Nigeria on Saturday, and Klinsmann was more than delighted to see his top striker get rewarded for all the hard work put in during the run-up to the World Cup.

The 24-year-old Altidore – who last netted for either club or country in Sunderland’s loss to Chelsea on Dec. 4  – scored his first in the Americans’ final send-off series match by tapping in a ball from close range after solid work from several of his teammates. The second also involved magnificent work from one of his compatriots, but required a nifty touch and powerful shot from Altidore.

“I think it will give him a lot of confidence,” said Klinsmann of Altidore’s two-goal performance. “It’s always a tough period when you don’t score for a striker. You know and everybody around you lets you know that. You get more and more anxious about the situation. You work harder and harder, which he did the last three-and-a-half weeks since we got into camp. He really worked his back off. It was amazing.

“Then you just wish that the moment comes, you put it in there, then you go start to be your own self again, which it does. But you have to go through that working process, so that’s what I’ve always told him. You’re not getting for free. You have to go and work for it. He got sharper and sharper, fitter and fitter. We knew that if he gets the chances he will put one in.”

Altidore has maintained in recent weeks and months that he has not been fazed by the stretch of 27 games for club and country in which he was unable to score because he had been able to deliver in other areas. But Altidore had grown tired of questions about his confidence and the much-analyzed drought, and he put them to rest while also silencing his detractors – at least for the time being – in an emphatic way on Saturday at EverBank Field.

“The reality is that anybody who ever questions Jozy or anybody who ever doesn’t see what he brings to our team, doesn’t understand soccer,” said Michael Bradley, who delivered the mouth-watering pass that set up Altidore’s winner in the second half. “I’ll tell you guys that right now: This guy does so much. At such a young age, he’s given our team so much on so many big days. You can’t help but laugh when now he goes through a few games and he doesn’t get a goal or two and people start to look and want to throw all the rest out the window.

“Trust me, as a player, as somebody who has been on the field with him on a lot of days, in a lot of big games, this is a guy who you want on your team. Every single time.”

The forward is also someone whose influence in the locker room has grown significantly in recent years. Part of that is down to other veterans being dropped from the team, and another reason is Altidore’s more mature and professional outlook.

“To be honest, it makes no difference,” said Altidore when asked if it’s a relief that he scored. “I don’t know if it’s weird to (others), but it’s not weird to me. I think as I played for this team for such a long time, it’s my responsibility to help the team in other ways: tracking back, just being somebody now that younger guys can look up to. I take that very serious.”

A noteworthy statistic that emerged from Saturday’s match is that Fabian Johnson’s last four assists have been on goals that Altidore has scored. When asked why the two have such a good understanding after the victory that saw them connect again for the game’s opener, Altidore offered a rare smile to the media and said, ‘That’s my roommate.’

Altidore and Johnson might have a good understanding on and off the field, but it will be of great importance for the U.S. that other teammates pick out Altidore in similarly dangerous positions at the World Cup.

That will help assure that the U.S. has a shot at advancing out of a challenging Group G that includes Ghana, Germany and Portugal, and that the cumbersome questions about his scoring funk remain in the backdrop.

“He needs to have people that make certain runs, get to the endline, put it back in and get him in the right place,” said Klinsmann. “How he obviously scored the second goal is world class. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. … Hopefully we can keep him as a handful going down to Brazil.”

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100 Responses to Altidore draws raves after ending scoring drought

  1. DanO says:

    Hopefully he goes on a five game scoring streak like last year…

  2. murray burns says:

    What I loved was, after the first goal, rather than do an after-goal solo celebration, he went right to Fabian Johnson to acknowledge the pass.

  3. cformusic says:

    that was a great display yesterday..but I don’t know whether or not I like his nonchalant responses to the questions about his drought..one one hand, it’s encouraging that he’s showing a steely resolve..however, he can’t seriously expect us to believe his confidence never wavered when we saw some of his flubs late in the EPL season

    • Tyrone says:

      Sometimes being honest to the media can backfire on you (case in point: Mr. Donovan).

    • Bac says:

      “Write this down- You play em one game at a time”
      “One game at..”
      “One game at a time”
      “One game at a time?? that’s boring”
      “Of course it’s boring…that’s the point”
      Moral of the story… listen to Crash…

      • Carter says:

        TRUTH!

        Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, SOMETIMES…it rains.

        You think about that.

        • NolaJ says:

          Man I wish Ron Shelton had played for an NASL team instead of minor league baseball….

    • GW says:

      “he can’t seriously expect us to believe his confidence never wavered when we saw some of his flubs late in the EPL season”

      What makes you say that?

    • TomG says:

      That is the attitude you have to have as a striker. If you don’t talk that confidence, you won’t believe it.

  4. Joe says:

    Wouldn’t be sbi without the jozy haters…he could of scored ten goals and people would still hate.

  5. TomM says:

    Can we just post this somewhere for permanent reference: “The reality is that anybody who ever questions Jozy or anybody who ever doesn’t see what he brings to our team, doesn’t understand soccer,” said Michael Bradley.

    • Billy says:

      We’ll see. End of the streak or flash in a pan?

      Didnt Bradley also have comments about those that questioned his Dad’s coaching? In the end… BB was let go

      • Jonathon says:

        And BB went onto almost get Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 24 years during intense turmoil, only to be paired up with the most talented team in the final playoff. Now he’s taking a team that was predicted to struggle in Norway to a respectable position. BB is a pretty damn good coach.

        • Falsify says:

          I like Bob Bradly but you’d think the third time he faced Ghana as a coach he would have figured them out. Dude never learned how to beat them.

      • GW says:

        Billy,

        Lots of really good managers get let go. Mourinho, Van Gaal, Belichek, Rick Pitino, It’s part of the territory.

        Bob Bradley is a very fine coach and an even better man.

    • Slowreno says:

      I second that. Billy, you’re grasping at straws here and missed the point of MB90’s comment. It’s what he does for the team.

      TomM, pretty funny you and I think alike, my real name is Tom and last name starts with M too. Regardless of any haters, Bradley’s comment will be forever stuck in my head.

      • Billy says:

        I guess I wasn’t being clear. The point I was trying to make was that Michael made similar comments about what was going and that how people that criticized didnt know soccer…. I think that maybe he should just play and let JK do the spinning.

        I didnt think Nigeria’s defense was all that and thought we should have been able to score more that the two we got. The final 1/3 of the field for us is still weak.

        • GW says:

          Billy,

          I would say Mikey is entitled to his opinion as much as you are to yours.

          Players in his position, son of the coach, often decline to comment because he is in a no win spot but that does not render his opinion any less valid.

      • TomM says:

        Nice to meet another TomM!

    • beachbum says:

      +1

      Michael stands up for his team and mates. Leader

  6. AcidBurn says:

    So who didn’t say “whoa!” when Jozy blasted that second one in?
    Looked a lot more like Lukaku and less like Heskey.

    • TomG says:

      Heskey was actually a damn fine player. That was a textbook move, though. NIce bring down, then the way he used his shoulder to create the space. That was beautiful.

    • GW says:

      ABurn,

      Heskey spent 18 seasons in the EPL and had 60+ caps for England. He was Michael Owen’s favorite strike partner.

      When Lukaku lasts that long let me know.

      Heskey at his best would be first string for the US.

      • foooo says:

        Is that why he was in consideration for the all-time worst England team?
        62 appearances for England. 7 goals.

        • Paul says:

          There’s a lot more than goals scored. Heskey was not a pure 9. He linked up, drew defenders and created space for Owen (and letter Rooney). That was his strength. His style was made for him to play next a pure 9 in a 4-4-2 or be a withdrawn forward who links up with a 9.

        • Ryan says:

          Hate to break it to you but the far majority of strikers that played for the US would be in the running for all-time worst England team.

        • Ali Dia says:

          A lot of this has to do with the peculiarity of English culture. For whatever reason, Heskey has always been a guy they love to pick on, which the press constantly feeds. The reasons for this are not entirely clear (seriously… there are multiple entries on Yahoo! Answers asking “Why do people hate Emile Heskey?”). Talk to any serious follower of the game and they will usually concede in conversation that he has had a great career and was an excellent team player… his partnership with Owen was extremely successful because of his selflessness.

          But… for whatever reason, the guy gets clowned. A lot. Even now, you can go to a pub for an England game (even here in the US) and whenever England are playing poorly, it’s likely somebody will yell “Bring on ‘eskey!” and draw a laugh from the room. I invite you to try it yourself..

  7. BookNerd says:

    Honestly, even though people make rage at me, I think you have to give some credit to Klinsmann. He came out in defense of Altidore while at Sunderland and has stuck with him despite the troubles. I really think this team is peaking at the right team and I hope we see an even better performance against Ghana.

  8. peterprinciple says:

    Klinnsman will defend anyone playing football in Europe, but really I think he sees Jozy’s potential (which the second goal was a reflection of) Jozy simply has a skill set we have never quite seen in the USA, his power, speed, size combo can be awesome. He is still young and sometimes it takes a guy until his prime (which JZA is about to enter) to realize his full potential.

    Now about Dempsey’s finishing yesterday…

    • GW says:

      “Klinnsman will defend anyone playing football in Europe”

      I see he cut Boyd and took Wondo instead.

      • peterprinciple says:

        Yeah, out of charachter and IMO a mistake too. But Wondo earned it in his appearences for Klinnsman. I hope we don’t see Wondolowski in Brazil though as I feel he is the fourth best striking option even if he has that intangible “magic” quality.

        • GW says:

          I probably would have taken Boyd, but apparently Wondo had the camp of a lifetime. Six of one, half a dozen of the other,

          I hope we see Wondo and AJ because it will probably mean we are thru to the later rounds.

  9. Josephnsantos says:

    Yes, Jozzy is a marvelous athlete who is key to the US team in Brazil. His power and willingness to help anywhere is very important.
    Good luck, and score often!
    Joe Santos,sr.

  10. Chris says:

    “The reality is that anybody who ever questions Jozy or anybody who ever doesn’t see what he brings to our team, doesn’t understand soccer,” said Michael Bradley.

    Bradley just called out over half of the ignorant trolls around here.

    • Billy says:

      I guess I wasn’t being clear. The point I was trying to make was that Michael made similar comments about what was going and that how people that criticized didnt know soccer…. I think that maybe he should just play and let JK do the spinning.

      I didnt think Nigeria’s defense was all that and thought we should have been able to score more that the two we got. The final 1/3 of the field for us is still weak.

  11. Biff says:

    I have to admit, I was a bit of a hater but not because of the scoring. It just always seemed to me that Jozy rarely put in the extra effort. In the last three games though, he’s done everything right. Although the scoring is great and the second goal was incredible, what really sticks in my mind is the ball Jozy chased down in the turkey game that he had no business winning but somehow got it. Or the fact that he’s tracking back and getting involved defensively. That’s what’s making me a Jozy believer. If he keeps that up this world cup will be much more successful for us than the pundits anticipate.

    • Chris says:

      He’s always done that, you’re just looking for a reason to rationalize your hate. He tracked back defensively all season at Sunderland. You might want to watch the confederation cup game vs Spain

      • TomG says:

        He HAS improved his workrate since moving to AZ. It’s been good since probably his second year under Verbeek who really taught him how to train. He seems to be really coming into his body recently, though. It sometimes takes guys his size a little time to figure out how to use their strength.

      • Biff says:

        I definitely haven’t watched many of the Sunderland games this season so I don’t have that data point but I’ll take it at face value.

        In regards to the confederation cup you are actually proving my point. In the lead-up games, Jozy wasn’t all that aggressive. His work-rate was unpredictable. It was actually Charlie Davies that was chasing down balls/situations we had very low probability of winning. Though I’m going off of memory, I don’t remember him tracking back defensively that much in the spain game either. Through the leadup to the confed semi-final Jozy would sometimes show in games and sometimes not. In the past three games he’s been aggressive and engaged in all of them. His consistent work-rate is up which is very encouraging.

  12. Ricardo says:

    Like Billy? Don’t ever question MB. Without this guy I have no idea where we would be. A total pro who is only watching out for his teammate.

  13. argh says:

    the first world class striker from the USA

    ———————————– JOZY ALTIDORE

    • shawn says:

      Haha. I’m happy for jozy, but this forum overreacted to every thing. Calm down and wait till he does more

      • Slowreno says:

        Whatever he does it will never be enough for you. What Bradley is saying is he HAS been doing enough. it’s not just about scoring, which you and the legion of Altidore haters fail to realize.

        • Falsify says:

          Jozy has scored against Germany, Spain and numerous good opponents. Anyone who doubts his potential is dimwitted.

      • Shaft says:

        Exactly. He had one gift goal and one good goal. Its been forever since he’s scored and NOBODY knows when the next one will be. When he does this on a regular basis I will back off but I am far form convinced that this means any more than two goals in the last friendly. We have 3 real games coming…. do it there if you’re really “world class.”

        • Nate says:

          Name a striker who has scored more consistently for the US…

        • Gary Page says:

          Well, he did very well for the US during the Hex and very well for AZ for two seasons. Maybe it is that his first season at Sunderland was the anomaly. He obviously gets better service from the USMNT than he does from the Black Cats.

    • TomG says:

      Ha. While I was at the NY/LA first Beckham game at the Meadowlands, I predicted to a Brit sitting next to me that Jozy WOULD be the first US world class striker, but he’s not there yet. It’s still not impossible, but he’s got some work to do yet.

  14. Ricardo says:

    I only saw the first 35 minutes. It was a great goal and we looked pretty good. Was the rest of the game as good as the first 35?
    Good result however, I don’t think that Nigeria is a very good team

    • Maykol says:

      Theyre pretty good, i think Ghana and Ivory Coast are a little better though

      • peterprinciple says:

        Nigeria in our group would be certain to not see a point, as it is they may grab a win against Iran. They looked pretty bad and are going to need their keeper to keep them in games.

        As for the final 55 minutes? BETTER than the first 35 to be sure. Only a penalty (which I thought was legit) on a play Timmy had covered cost us the clean sheet and a few nice saves and poor final touches cost us a goal or two on the other end.) Nigeria never threatened for about 45 minutes from the point you left off until the mass subs took effect around the 80 minute mark

      • GW says:

        In the just concluded African Cup of Nations. Nigeria beat Ivory Coast on the way to the semis where they drew 0-0 with Ghana .

        Ghana went thru to the final 4-3 on penalties where they lost to Libya.

        That is a pretty serious tournament so I think everyone was playing all out.

        • Maykol says:

          Thats not “just concluded”. That was a year and a half ago

        • peterprinciple says:

          My eyes saw a pretty bad squad yesterday. A lot of giveaways in their own end, little creativity or skill going forward. I’m sure they are capable of better but a team that falls 2-0 to Scotland (even though I see Scotland is climbing in the rankings) and then get controlled by the US for the most part should be no threat to their group- if the groups were not unbalanced. As is I have Argentina and BH a lock in that group after seeing Nigeria yesterday

          • Matthew R says:

            Nigeria tied Scotland 2-2 but your point still stands, although I think people also sometimes forget that part of the reason Nigeria looked bad is because we played well, so we deserve some credit for that

            • peterprinciple says:

              Really hope you are right. I dont get to watch much African international football, but Nigeria looked like Panama to me, nothing they did stood out.

            • beachbum says:

              agreed Matthew. Nigeria much better with Eminike out there too imo

  15. Pila says:

    I guess I have to raise my hand when they ask for ignorant trolls. No one rooted more for Jozy last winter than I did as he lumbered around the pitch for Sunderland. I’m delighted he has finally had a game where balls fell for him and he was able to deliver. Would love to see him tear up Portugal and Germany. And Beasley seemed to work wonders in tightening up the back four. Great game from Bedoya and Johnson and the Everready Bunny, Jermaine Jones.

  16. QuakerOtis says:

    But my opinion is way better than Michael Bradley’s, because I sit at bars and observe from an objective distance…

    Great game Jozy! He did well during the Turkey game too, just in a different way. Let’s hope he keeps scoring.

  17. Troy says:

    Ghana has been beating Nigeria for the past 15 years. Check the records Ghana never had a tie game with nigeria in Afcon whenever they meet them they always beat them. The just ended Afcon Nigeria never Met Ghana.

  18. MiamiAl says:

    Very happy to see Jozy display what he can do. I am not one of those that saw his time at Sunderland as a failure. In fact, I thought going to Sunderland was a good move for Jozy and USMNT. On a bottom feeding relegation battled team, with no real midfield service to speak of, Jozy sharpened other aspects of his game, including his vision of the field, his hold up play, his workrate, his defensive cover and his passing. I dont care what anyone says, Jozy is a physical specimen with speed and power which central defenders must account for. I believe Jozy is going to have a HUGE World Cup! He’s gonna eat Ghana’s lunch in Natal! Mark it!!!!

    • peterprinciple says:

      I agree, and he is still just 24. Drogba (for example) was 26 before being added to a top flight squad and at 24 was on a lower rated ligue 1 side. There is time for him to get better and put his USMNT form to work. And I suppose if he doesn’t, he can just come back and dominate MLS CBs in Miami or Columbus or Chivas or wherever they want to perk up the excitement level.

  19. Troy says:

    Measure your expectation guys. So you don’t get heart broken again. There’s a huge difference in the Team you played lastnite and the Ghana team you’ll play on the 16. 1. The nigeria Team don’t have Ghana’s midfield, their attack is blunt, and their defence is weak. But plays same possessive football as the Ghanaians. They not really stubborn like the Ghanaians too. Example: Kevin Boateng,Gyan,Dede Ayew, Muntari

    • peterprinciple says:

      Not sure I understand? Ghana is rated 10-15 spots lower in the rankings than the US, have been aging etc. Why shouldn’t the USA feel good about their chances in that game? Nobody is dismissing Ghana, nor are they comparing Ghana to Nigeria explicitly. Even the last time they played at the WC, when they were in better form and we were in worse, the game went to extra time. The USA could lose to be sure, but in this one spot the USA are favorites.

      It’s not an “expectation” to defeat Ghana, we just fancy our chances.

      • Brett says:

        Ghana has more players in top leagues.

        • peterprinciple says:

          BFD, our best players are in a league many call inferior because 1. it is close to home and 2. It pays them big BIG money to do it. Dempsey could still play in France or Germany or Spain or Italy on a down table team and obviously same goes for Bradley. Good luck to the Ghanians getting 9 mil a year to come home to play in an inferior league. Outside of that I see a few Italy and French pros.USA have a few German(starting RB,DCM, reserve(!) LB, LCM, etc.) and EPL (starting GK, RCB and ST, reserve GK) ones, so I dont see the big difference especially when you consider the USA’s best talent are playing at home because there is greater reward in doing so.

    • MiamiAl says:

      USA 3 – Ghana 0.

      I am very confident for that specific game. The entire US program is on the line in that one match. To be beaten by the same team 3 World Cups in a row, would be a massive humiliation for the program. Klinsmann, Dempsey, Jozy and Bradley all know its a one game World Cup final for us right in the first game. Pressure is on. But I just dont see Ghana being able to put us down this time.

    • Benny says:

      Yeah, but they lose to Zambia, Montenegro and Libya,LOL!!!!

    • whoop-whoop says:

      Regarding Ghana/Nigeria comparisons… from someone relatively unfamiliar with both, Ghana seems to have a better team on paper, particularly their midfield. There is plenty of respect for Ghana by most US fans I know. That said, Nigeria deserves a little as well. Although they didn’t meet Ghana, Nigeria is the current African Champion. Means something yes? I just did a search and in the last 10 meetings dating back to 2001 between Nigeria and Ghana. Ghana’s record is 3 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws. Ghana had a nice 3 game win streak, with 2 AFCON victories… that’s pretty big, but the last match was some time ago (2011) and ended in a 0-0 draw.

      For sure, the US assuming/projecting a result v Ghana based on a friendly v Nigeria is pretty foolish, but the US showed some promising signs of improvement v previous games. I’ll take it! I’d also say Ghana assuming a victory based on an overtime win in So Africa is as well. Certainly Ghana deserves to be happy about past results v the USA, but for better or worse, this US team is much different than the one that last played a very tough match against Ghana 4 years ago. I’d assume Ghana probably is as well. Ultimately both sides would be advised to expect it to be a hard fought evenly matched game between two very determined sides. May the better win!

      Go USA!

    • Nate says:

      Did you not watch the 2006 and 2010 world cups? It wasnt like Ghana played the US off the field…both games could have gone either way…

  20. peterprinciple says:

    Jozy was very good yesterday and has flashed that type of game before. But, how was that service? Anyone dropping in 50 yard bombs to him while he is closely marked at Sunderland? Did he miss any sitters from 5 yards out? I know he has to be better at occasionaly creating his own, but if he saw chances like yesterday all season, he would have put more than one away.

    The defending by Nigeria on goal 1 though would get you relegated in EPL for sure, so really it is only the second which falls in the brilliant category.

  21. Len says:

    I did watch a lot of Sunderland games and to my eye, he looks fitter and hungrier in these last 3 games. This may simply be a reflection of getting better service but might also be, in part, the result of a good camp. What we never get to see is what goes on in practice, who’s kicking a$$ there etc. I think one of the (perhaps few) positives from his Sunderland experience is that his hold up play got a little better (despite his huge frame, I don’t think he has really been that good a “target” forward per se and his aerial game could be better). I think he’s good with the ball at his feet facing the goal and potentially combining with teammates in short passing sequences. I hope he bags many goals in Brazil. Go USA!

  22. JakeTheSnake says:

    The fact is that Jozy has been playing tough and doing a lot over the last 3 games…I’m just glad to see him get the monkey off his back of not scoring. Great timing! Jozy has been holding the ball up well before yesterday AND actually making great defensive plays. That second goal really caught me off guard because it shows what he truly can be…a powerful striker.

  23. Bac says:

    Alexi Lalas just picked Germany and Ghana to advance from our group..
    I’m feeling better and better about our chances each day!!

    • whoop-whoop says:

      One day going off on Klinsman for saying the US wasn’t ready to win the entire world cup tournament, the next saying he doesn’t think they will make it out of their group.

      • DCUPedro says:

        Did Alexi say that we “cannot” do anything? Like Klinsmann did? No, he simply made a prediction.

        I predict that we will not win the world cup. But I’d never say we “cannot”.

        Big difference. Particularly from a manager.

        • whoop-whoop says:

          Semantics. If you predict the team won’t make it out of group play- you clearly deem them incapable of winning a cup.

        • Bac says:

          He simply made a prediction that Ghana will advance.
          Translation:
          “My verbal diarrhea is all that matters. I don’t actually believe my own public spewing but if I continue to gobble like this I can squarely keep my ego well satisfied”

          There once was another red headed egomaniac who ran his mouth because he thought his past contribution to the game made him infallible as a dissenting loudmouth.
          Until it got old, stale, and unbearable. Unfortunately there’s only 1 network covering this shindig…

          Eventually, Lalas will be put out to pasture just like Bill Walton was…

  24. Ricardo says:

    Does anyone know how long Nigeria has been here in the US?

  25. 1776croatswede says:

    WE WILL WIN THE CUP, JUST BELIEVE