U.S. Men's Olympic Team

Is Altidore losing focus?


In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is my story on Jozy Altidore today on ESPN.com. It focuses on the growing sentiments that Altidore is losing focus and is developing poor training habits, perhaps as a result of being distracted by all the transfer speculation surrounding him, or as a result of him starting to buy into the hype.

The story came about after hearing from a myriad of very reliable sources about Altidore’s worsening training habits, and his attitude changing. This wasn’t meant as an indictment of him as a person, but rather a revelation that all the hype just might be getting to a kid who I honestly didn’t think could change from the humble and hard-working player he had been since joining MLS.

It is probably unfair to believe that a player of his age wouldn’t succumb to all the talk, and start believing it. Let’s face it, even if you were 25, let alone 18, and you started being linked to teams like Real Madrid and transfer prices like $10 million, you might start thinking you can do no wrong.

The issue is a very real one and perhaps Altidore will straighten himself out and get back to being the player so many have raved about the past two years. Right now though, his approach to the game is leaving a lot of people scratching their heads.

What do you think of the story. Share your thought below.

  • derek Gores

    guys, don’t forget, a blog isn’t traditional journalism, it is interactive. surely ives is also following his traditional methods, but part of the reason we’re all here is that ives asks questions and we get to dream up our own answers.

    shake it jozy!-

    i think most senior forwards lose that ‘run all day at ya’ intensity. please don’t jozy. look at the youthful intensity of c. ronaldo– it surely is effective for him at the highest levels.


  • pwip

    Let me ask you. Is there anyway Ives could of known about this story himself? It may not be RBNY as a whole but I would say 90% of professional teams keep their dirty laundry in house. If it is aired, it is usually leaked on purpose by the player or the organizations. I didn’t say it was a smart person or this was done with clear reasoning.


  • Dannyc58

    I’d like to take back what I said mostly.

    I believe Ives had sources and that they believe this. Thinking about it, this isn’t about his form, its about his actions off the pitch.

    Linking his (Jozy’s) NY Times blog entries, is nice, but talk is cheap.

    So I want to apologize to Ives for implying anything negative about Ives’ integrity, that was dumb and unfair of me.

    My anger for ESPN is from how they handle the NFL (and the crap that Mort & Clayton spew out just to get noticed), so I apologize to Ives.


  • pwip

    Ives, I’m not questioning the fact you have sources. I questioning the fact you didn’t get the other side of the story. And, an issue of your own credibility.


  • ManicMessiah

    I will say this about having two minor quibbles about the article:

    1) I would attribute his dip in form to defenders being more aware and physical with him (which I think he’s letting distract him), as well as playing as a wide forward on a team whose midfield has not been creative or held the ball, pulling him far away from the goal much more than bad practice habits.

    2) Bob Bradley’s selections being based on form, based on the team selection for the last match, I don’t know that I buy that.

    As far as Altidore leaving during this transfer window, earlier in the year I wanted him to stay until the winter, but if this does continue and/or escalate, it wouldn’t do to have him in MLS. He’s a first choice player for the Red Bulls, and benching him for poor practice hurts the Red Bulls on the pitch more than it sends a message.


  • aristotle

    Maybe Josie will be signed by a premier league team and immediately come unglued and never be able to play again a la Eddie Johnson.


  • Alex

    Great piece, Ives. Well written as always.

    It’s a valid point about Altidore. He may just be acting the way teenagers do (being one myself I know how it is) and I’d like to think that’s all it is, because if he is letting the hype get to his head and his form is dips as a result it will be very sad for him and American fans because clubs like Real Madrid will no longer be interested in him.

    On the flip side, I’ve never thought Real Madrid was the best option for him at this point in his career. I’d certainly like to see him play there someday, but right now a Newcastle or similar club might be better for him.

    IMO, regardless of his form for the rest of his MLS career, there will be European clubs interested. A dip in form now, whatever the cause, might cost him Real’s interest, but that may be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to go to a smaller club where he can get some serious PT and develop better.


  • Adam M.

    Jozy is hyped, but surely no more than fellow teens Pato, Bojan, or Giovanni Dos Santos, all of whom regularly get first team time with Milan and Barca, two teams slightly higher up the food chain that NYRB. Didn’t Pato win the Club World Championship with International when he was 17? Yep. This isn’t a knock on Jozy, just reality. He has yet to prove himself on a major stage and isn’t playing particularly well for a middle of the pack MLS team. Why is anyone’s guess. He is entitled to get tired, of course. But Jozy remains mostly potential, as yet unrealized, and he won’t get better playing in Giants Stadium, much less sitting on the bench. Personally, I think he’d do better heading South than East for now. Sao Paulo needs a big striker to replace Adriano. Give Jozy a year or two in Brazil and if he really has the born talent and the will, he will be a world beater. But he needs a change, badly, and now.


  • El Guapo

    Maybe Jozy is getting a tip from Eddie Johnson….

    not saying just saying.


  • Drew2

    “Pwip, you have a lot to say for someone who has never posted on SBI before today.

    Since you’re here though, do you honestly think I would write this story with just one source, or even just two sources? I stand by my multiple sources and while some folks want to be in denial about it, there is an issue.

    The point of the article wasn’t about his form as much as his work ethic and attitude within the team being poor. Whether it’s because he’s thinking too much about a transfer, or buying into the hype, he has lost his way a bit.”

    That’s certainly a fair point to make. I do wonder, however, whether when journalists write articles like this do they talk to the player in question? I assume that you have some contact with Jozy since you cover the Red Bulls… is it considered proper to let him know this kind of negative article is coming, just as a warning? Do you try to get a comment from him and he declines?


  • Bob

    Ives, I don’t usually disagree with you, but I think you are being unfair. The soccer gods are fickle; why attribute a dip in form to potential character problems?

    Why don’t you write an article about how soccer writers in this country tend to slobber over every young player who MIGHT do something in world soccer? You imply this in your ESPN article — take a bolder stance.

    I do think you are correct in your comments about him looking ahead to a transfer. A true professional would play out his time with class. Dempsey did not do this, and it is tough to tell if Adu dogged it in the end because RSL was pretty terrible.


  • Bob

    One other comment/question — when I see this kind of article, a piece critical of a player that uses unnamed sources, I often wonder if it is “planted” in order to motivate a player. Care to comment, Ives?


  • Joe Quake

    Ives – come on man. You’ve been jocking this guy for how long? After the US v Mexico game, you said he was clearly ready for the big time. You can’t have it both ways.

    He’s only 18. We don’t know what kind of a player he is going to be yet. I thought this after reading your US v Mexico comments, and I think so now.

    I can sympathize with you Ives because you are trying to be both fan and journalist. Like someone else posted, this wasn’t one of your best pieces – you should have gone directly to Jozy.


  • Justin O

    pwip – The “other side of the story” is the story written about in basically every recent article about Altidore. It’s Ives who is presenting the other side of the story here.

    Also, I would be concerned with any attitude problems, because whatever Jozy is going through in terms of hype, it is miniscule compared to what numerous other 18-year old athletes experience in numerous sports around the world.


  • Justin O

    Joe Quake – Right or wrong, the article is clearly refering to *recent* developments in Altidore’s attitude. I fail to see how saying Altidore was ready for the US team after the Mexico game means it is somehow contradictory to report on attitude problems now.


  • Ives

    Joe Quake, it’s not about having it both ways and in no way am I ever trying to be a fan (I am a journalist, and if I wanted to be a fan I would just write a long series of puff pieces and positive player profiles). It’s about things changing and Altidore’s work ethic and attitude changing in recent months. This is an issue raised by several, and I mean several, sources and something I have been tracking for some time. I wish I could elaborate more but I can’t without revealing sources.

    This wasn’t a planted story or the motive of some disgruntled person. I would never even think about writing a story like this with just one source. I have several solid sources whose information I have no reason to doubt.

    I’m not sure if some people bothered to really ready the piece. There’s a lot of talk about his form and how it isn’t that bad. The point of the article wasn’t to say he’s playing terribly, but that his poor work ethic and deteriorating attitude are affecting his form. Yes, he has three goals, but he has not played as well as he did last year. I know some people want to blame that on anything but his own work in training or lack of focus, but that’s not what I have heard.

    As I stated in the piece, it might just be the growing pains of a teenager dealing with success, but the fact is its happening, which is a cause for concern when we’re talking about such an important prospect and someone who has been lauded (by me among others) for his maturity and ability to handle the pressure and hype.

    Some people want to call it a hit job but I believe I was a lot more fair with the story than some writers would have been with the same information.


  • Bob

    Fair enough, Ives.

    I guess part of my response to this is motivated by the fact that I see so much awful reporting from Europe. Look at what has happened to Ronaldinho over the last two years. He went from god to fat roisterer all because of a few average performances (he is expected to be amazing all the time). Funny thing is, he was doing all of that when he played for PSG. If you play well, no one cares. When you get injured and start playing like a mere human, look out.

    So I guess the question is, would you have written this piece (or would your sources be saying this) if Jozy had ten or eleven goals? And I am NOT saying you are as bad as the Euro press, so please do not take offense.


  • John

    1. I think it’s about being a teenager. At some point, it’s natural for a teenager to think he knows best. Adu did it with Nowak (and has since recanted most of his criticism of Nowak saying that instead it gave him a taste of what Europe was like).

    2. Good training habits: folks lets be realistic here, the vast majority of athletes don’t have good training habits period! That’s one thing that separates outstanding players from might-have-been’s. To indict Altidore on his training habits isn’t that uncommon because it’s a rare player, almost unheard of actually, who from day one, demonstrates outstanding training habits. Even some great ones (like Maradona) have eating or drug issues that affect their health as players. I’m not saying it’s unimportant, only that this is an issue with a lot of players one way or another.

    3. Of course it happens to teen basketball players or guys in other sports. Can you say “Kwame Brown”? There are thousands of guys who lost big time money in a range of sports (Houston McTear?) because they didn’t put in the work and focus they needed to in order to succeed.

    4. As I understand it, the issue with Adu wasn’t work habits. It was more ego. But what is common in both cases is that teenagers (especially when they’ve been told that they’re great or soon to be great and going to come into large sums of money) often are immature in a variety of ways. For most of us, being immature as a teenager means not studying for math one semester or forgetting to put oil in the car engine or being a jerk to our parents for two years. But some of these kids (EJ, Adu, Altidore) have greater skills so their screwups and teenage funks have consequences beyond just them and their immediate families.


  • Jamie Z.

    Wait, wait. There’s a basketball team called the Charlotte Bobcats? Boy, am I out of the loop…


  • inkedAG

    If it’s really true that Jozy is starting to get a big head, it’ll be a damn shame as he always seemed so level-headed and respectful up to this point.

    He seems like he might be getting burnt out. While he scored against Chicago, he’s hasn’t been his usual stellar self, so something is going on. I hope it’s some teenage angst and he’ll get through it. RBNY has enough problems, they do not need a Diva Altidore.


  • pwip

    Let’s try this again. I think you got lazy. Do you feel obligated to get both side of the story? So you build your story around your inside sources. What is the next logical question? I believe if you did you job properly you should get an answer; a response on why he’s work ethic has deteriorated. Instead, I read inferences that were feed by your sources. I don’t know Jozy. Only of what I’ve read. And everything I ever read was this kid has always been dead serious about soccer and did everything that was ever asked of him. Where are his quotes? You’ve been playing soccer games of consequence for the last 2 years practically non-stop and your club just called you out in the press of being a lame duck. Do you have a response? There was a similar incident down here in Texas with an Al-Dia reporter http://www.3rddegree.net/2008/05/120-fahrenheit-the-locker-room/. Have the guts to ask Jozy to his face.


  • Andolini

    He’s 18, so there is no doubt he is distracted. It is the rare teenager who can focus on his job like a grown man with a mortgage and a wife and kids. Personally, I don’t see a lot of Eddie Johnson in him. I think he’ll be fine. But I’m 30, and if I were him, I would definitely be distracted by all the money and women in my future. And don’t tell me women (e.g., transvestite hookers) aren’t a distraction for footballers.


  • Ted

    I stopped reading these posts after the first page, but Ives, you dug your own hole on not asking Jozy yourself about this. Reporting all sides of an issue is one of the first things you learn in college reporting classes. Jozy didn’t have a chance to respond to this. You know better.

    To the person who said it would be pointless to ask Jozy because he would never admit to slacking off, it doesn’t matter. You ask. It’s what reporter do. If they decline to comment, then you put that they declined to comment in the story.

    I’m majoring in sports journalism, and something you get drilled into your head every day is that you cover all sides of an issue.

    Personally, I agree with you that his body language and attitude on the field looks bad. He looks like Beasley looked a few years back, flat feet and lazy running.

    But you always give people a chance to respond to accusations (which is the nature of what your source said). Always. I’m shocked. And on one of the most prominent soccer news sites in the US. Shocking.


  • alexandre

    adam m. I completely agree w u. jozy’s definitely got talent but the kid has in no way proven himself much as a player (at least not to be egotistic) since he’s only played in MLS which is no powerhouse league at all. I highly doubt he would have made it in madrid right now ( if in fact it was even true they were interested) and I think everyone here gives him too much hype. sorry.


  • Thomas


    Dissapointed to see concerns on Altidore’s work ethic from RBNY.

    anyways, my question is why are you so willing to write a piece thats going after Jozy here but I see no journalism that is asking questions of Bob Bradleys personnel and tactical decisions in the England friendly? I mean he says he doesn’t bring Altidore for form but starts Eddie Johnson who hasn’t played at Fulham for a good while now and Josh Wolff who is now out of contract and starting him as a striker when he didn’t score a single goal for his club all year?

    Most of my problems with American soccer journalism is that nobody wants to ask the tough questions of some of the USSF and the national teams decisions, why is there no digging going on there, surely there have been many questionable decisions made but I see no questions from the press.

    You can say its just a friendly but we just got played off the field in one of our highest profile national team matches of the year and apparently were going to be playing the same team vs. Spain, surely they don’t expect any better of a result? Its on a Fifa International date but we bring back Wolff and EJ leaving strikes who are actually scoring goals like Jozy, Cooper and even Rogers (who can play forward). I think its important that somebody questions Bradleys decision to play with two inept strikers who haven’t scored for club or country in who knows how long and two defensive minded center mids


  • Joe Quake

    Ives – I think hit job is a little strong, but I’m just not a fan of the piece nor the way Jozy was annointed by the US Soccer media a few months ago.

    FYI, I go to this site knowing there is going to be a Red Bulls slant on this blog. I know you are trying not to be a fan, but it does show through in your writing. I keep coming back though!


  • Nicole

    I can’t believe some of you people ragging on Ives for this story. It’s not like Ives has some track record of digging up dirt and writing about it. Ives has always been very honest in his stories.

    I have a feeling you’re upset because this puts a little damper on your fantasies that Jozy is The Perfect Player – great attitude, great skills, will lead us to the promised land and oh, he’ll fetch a 10 or 11 million dollar transfer fee and lead Real Madrid to Champions League glory year after year and US to World Cup Glory and look at how humble he is! i.e., vicariously live your life through him.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.


  • NJ Guy Stuck in DC

    I think it’s bigger than Jozy. This is just the flip side of the transfer windows that the league and teams have to suck it up and deal with. Players have to deal with crap salaries and a chance to develop, and MLS has to deal with players who will leave in the summer (if they are smart) and need to look out for their own interests while playing out the string. Anyone who has ever been in negotitations for a new job gets distracted from their current one.

    Not everyone thinks Jozy is the second coming. But he is one of the few true forwards in the US pool. Wake me when you find another one who will command 8-12 million in transfer fee.


  • Braden

    People do stupid things when their teams lose 5-1. Sometimes, this includes bad-mouthing a kid who’s emerged as the most visible star on an otherwise mediocre team. Unlike Adu, Altidore hasn’t been involved in a public dust-up with the coaches over how he’s being played, so it just seems really strange to me that someone associated with the club would take a swipe at him. This is especially true when every Red Bulls fan wants to see him play.

    And, as Ives is finding out, it’s difficult to criticize Altidore and have the allegation stick when he seemed like one of the only good things out on the pitch last week. This isn’t Adu, puttering around with the ball to no effect. Altidore is putting in goals, period.


  • Steve T

    There is some funny stuff in these comments but Ted takes the cake. Oh well, I’m in college now and they teach us to do this. Hah. Kid, how about you keep learnin and leave the professional writing to the professionals.

    I read stories like this Jozy story ALL the TIME. If i’m not mistaken the story is a column, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure a column can take some liberties that a regular news story doesn’t. I also don’t get this whole “get Jozy’s side” argument. What is Jozy going to say exactly? How is a comment from Jozy really going to change the story? It wouldn’t have so for me I could care less that he isn’t in the story.

    Maybe some of you who only are in to soccer don’t get enough mainstream sports coverage to realize that this goes on all the time in every sport. Some of you may not like it, especially since Jozy’s supposed to be a savior and all, but ripping the story is stupid.


  • Tom B

    Josie is probably just a bit burned out from a very long and competitive off season with the Olympic team. Same as Robbie Rogers after U20 World Cup. He was burnt out for about two months them caught on fire at the end of the season and is still going strong. Give him time.


    Like Danny Szetlea-he is distracted and is ready for a transfer to Europe.


  • Jamie Z.

    Okay, seriously. Everyone: Josie is a Pussycat, not a Haitian-American soccer prodigy.

    It’s Jozy or Josmer.


  • Bobo

    I remember when some US fans (read: delusional fanatics) were trying to claim that Jozy was as good a player as Alexandre Pato of AC Milan…

    Good times.


  • Yakima Shorty

    I honestly don’t see a “dip in form.” Jozy leads Metro in goals despite limited playing time and being played out of position on the wings.

    If there is any performance drop off, I blame Osorio for playing him on the wings. It was a mistake last year when Arena played him wide and it’s a mistake this year. Jozy is clearly a natural striker who deserves to be slotted up top.

    I agree with Michael F. This story cried out for a quote from Jozy.


  • understood

    i don’t buy the distracted tag. and also, since you’re so close to altidore, why would you write this story without getting a quote from him to get his take on it. it comes off like a rumor piece and it loses a little credibility since you’re so close to team and it would’ve been easier for you than other journalists to get jozy’s perspective.

    the only reason why jozy is getting criticism is because he isn’t scoring as many goals as people think he should…and a big part of the reason for that is a) he shouldn’t be playing as a left winger/forward…hes not robben or babel who has 1v1 dribble moves and high end speed to get past people…hes a striker through and through…and should be playing centrally…if he was playing up front with a strike partner he would look much more “motivated” because hed be scoring the goals to dispel all these crap rumors and whispers…some of which might be coming from people jealous about the hype he attracts as a teenager…b) he needs to make the move to europe…where the tactical awareness and technical ability is much higher…hed get better coaching…his game would improve more…and hed be playing on a better team who can give him better service in his perferred striker position…hed be back to scoring goals and looking like a great prospect again…

    Dear Jozy, please go abroad ASAP and leave all the jealous haters and clueless soccer hacks behind so you can take your game to the next level


  • Bobo

    All Altidore’s got going for him is his size — his technique is very limited, so he should get out of MLS as soon as possible. But even Europe won’t make an Altidore into a Drogba or Eto’o. By age 15, a player has essentially acquired most of the technique that he’ll probably ever have, though tactical understanding often comes quite a bit later.

    I’m hoping that nobody around here actually believed that he would have seen a minute of playing time with Real Madrid when he was linked to them a while ago. Heck, he probably wouldn’t have seen much time at Villarreal either! He’s just not the complete package, though he certainly has the tools to outdo Brian McBride on the USMNT (although that isn’t saying much, I’m afraid).


  • Joe G

    I don’t think that this has been a slow start. Last year it was well into June before Altidore had his fourth goal. This year he already has three. This start is the same as last year, it is just more of a dissapointment this year.


  • Pat the Red Bulls Fan

    Hey, Bobo, I’m one of those delusional fanatics you speak of. Take your elitist nonsense somewhere else. If you think you can come here and bash McBride and Altidore without a fight, you’re mistaken clown.


  • Killa


    Seems like Jozy has actually *gained* focus. I’m sorry, but part of being a “professional” is learning to be a good businessman. And if he can force this transfer to Villareal, he is definitely putting himself in a better financial and “footballistic” position.

    That the USMNT would punish him for wanting to improve his lot as a footballer is somewhat hypocritical, given the lip service that Bradley gives to people playing in the best leagues possible. It speaks to the NY/NJ soccer fraternity mentality, which will do more harm to the sport’s development as on a NATIONAL level.


  • Andrew


    I must admit I could not agree with your story more. Something has happened to him obviously. He looked lackadaisical and completely out of sync in ALL the U-23 Olympic qualifier games. If I didn’t know who he was, I wouldn’t have even looked twice.

    To the readers: I truly believe someone’s “form” cannot change over a short period of time, but their attitude certainly can. We have seen this with Donovan on countless occasions. It sometimes literally looks as LD shows up and just “does not want to play”. On other times, he shows up, and is a HUGE impact. LD has admitted that he has grown up a lot since WC 2006, and it shows in his play.

    I don’t think Ives is criticizing Altidore as much as just pointing out an observation held by many, an observation not unique to Altidore. I want nothing more than Altidore to become the first ever “American world class striker”, but until he realizes his role and responsibilities, and is mature enough to accept them, its going to be a while till we see that!


  • Andolini

    So Bobo, you’re telling me Altidore’s technique is limited? Compared to who? He’s not Maradona, but he’s got enough technique to do well in any of the top leagues. He showed very good technique at the u-20 world cup. And when you are that fast and strong, you don’t need exceptional technique — look at Chelsea’s players vs. Arsenal’s. Chelsea have finished higher than Arse the past three years.


  • andrew


    AGREED! BoBo, just because he is a product of American “futbol” does not make him a lower class. He shone at the U20 world cup, as did his fellow teen star Adu (who was easily the best player at the tourney). He just needs some maturation, but yes, he will be as good as Pato! just wait!


Add your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More from SBI Soccer


A total of seven players still taking part in the MLS playoffs lead the way in the SBI MLS Best XI, including a trio of Columbus Crew players and representatives from all four teams still alive in the MLS (…)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,030 other followers