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U.S. Men's National Team

Altidore delivers in Gold Cup debut

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Photo by Rick Osentoski/ISIphotos.com 

By FRANCO PANIZO

DETROIT – Jozy Altidore entered the media press conference room following the U.S. men's national team's Gold Cup opener with Canada and was quickly received with the Man of the Match trophy, a small silver replica of the actual Gold Cup. Altidore smiled as he analyzed it and posed for a photo with the award, an award he won via votes from media members who attended the game at Ford Field on Tuesday night.

It was a deserving reward for Altidore, who moments earlier had scored a goal against Canada and helped set up another in a 2-0 victory to start the U.S. team's Gold Cup campaign. That type of performance was one he badly needed, having seen limited action while on loan with Turkish club Bursaspor and considering his recent lack of goals for club and country.

Altidore wouldn't say as much about his Gold Cup debut during the ensuing press conference, though.

"I think it's for everybody," said Altidore when asked if the game was a confidence builder for him. "I think coming off the game against Spain obviously we got down a little bit. But we picked ourselves up well, and we still have, clearly, a lot of ways to improve but I thought the start of the tournament wasn't too bad."

The start to the tournament began well in large part due to Altidore's 74-minute performance. The 21-year-old striker was a handful for Canadian defenders from the opening whistle, drawing a foul at the edge of the penalty area three minutes after kickoff.

Only a corner kick came from Clint Dempsey's free kick that followed, but that moment was the beginning of one of Altidore's better performances since last summer's World Cup.

"We count on him and in a lot of ways," said Michael Bradley. "He plays a big part in our success, and there may be times when may be the goals don't come but even on those days he gives our team a lot. All you need to look at that in terms of that is the World Cup. He wasn't able to score, but just his overall contribution to the team and every game was really big."

Altidore made a big impact for the United States 12 minutes after he drew the game's first foul as he found the back of the net for the eleventh time in his United States career and the first time in eight months.

After making a darting diagonal run across Canada's back line, Altidore received the ball when Landon Donovan fed him with a precise through ball. Despite facing away from goal, Altidore took a good touch on the ball and surprised defender Kevin McKenna and goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld when he unleashed a potent driven shot towards goal. Hirschfeld wasn't even anticipating the shot as he failed to save it despite being in a good position to do so.

"It's good for Jozy's confidence him getting the goal," said Dempsey.

If the goal helped Altidore's confidence, his near assist on Dempsey's second half insurance goal raised it to a whole different level.

In the 62nd minute, Altidore raced passed a defender and nailed a driven cross across the penalty area. Juan Agudelo got the slightest of touches on the ball before Dempsey knocked it in, and the assist was given to Agudelo not Altidore.

"I think they should give the assist to Jozy," said Agudelo with a smile. "It's not like I meant to pass it."

Assist or no assist, Altidore delivered at a time when many doubted him and questioned his repeated starts with the U.S. team. That'll likely change, at least temporarily, as Altidore's performance helped the Americans earn three big points.

"For confidence it's a good game for Jozy," said head coach Bob Bradley. "The movement that led to the first goal and obviously the ball he that he put across for Clint's goal; both great plays. When you go through a stretch with your club team and now not always playing regularly and not getting goals, I think in terms of confidence this was very important."

If Altidore can indeed carry over that confidence and continue playing the way he did against Canada, he just might be posing a few more times this tournament with Man of the Match awards.

92 comments
  • Vince

    All right, all right, everyone gets their own opinion, and I’m not saying Altidore is Rooney or Drogba, but “never fights for 50/50 balls”?

    That I have to strongly disagree with.

    I can’t remember the last Tim Howard goal kick Altidore HASN’T thrown his body at, often with a defender hanging off him.

    In fact, that’s how last night’s second goal started. Altidore beat his defender to the ball, chested it down right, and continued to that side before putting the cross in.

    “Never fights for 50/50 balls”? That’s like the one thing Altidore does every match….

    Like

  • Eurosnob

    Dude, you are entitled to think that Altidore is a mediocre player, but he just got the man of the match award for our national team. You take his two plays away and the US does not win but has a 0-0 draw against Canada. He was the difference maker last night.

    Like

  • Brian

    I heard Simon Borg likes to make sculptures using his own s*$t. Maybe he could have modeled a scorpion trophy for Dempsey.

    Like

  • Jeff M in CHI

    Kenny Cooper is not a proven MLS player…way too inconsistent a career to date.

    Like

  • Eurosnob

    Not that I disagree with your general point, but Tim Ream is turning 24 in October, which is still young for a CB.

    Like

  • Typical Ranter

    Yeah well your just saying that cause your dad runs the message board. If we can’t be perfect we’ll never get to the NEXT LEVEL!!!! Oh and fire Bob Bradley.

    Like

  • Citronomics

    I think you make a key point about what was good about Jozy’s goal (and I agree with others that he put the ball on frame and the keeper should have done better). What I saw and liked is how he shielded the defender and turned and shot after the first touch. Certainly his stregth and improving ability (from what I’ve seen) to use his frame effectively when put in advantaged positions are encouraging. Hopefully, the next few years see him grow into more of a completer player and striker along the lines of what others have mentioned.

    Like

  • Citronomics

    Agreed on all points. My observations from watching the match – MB’s positioning, distribution and I think most importantly moving into space to provide link up options were all quite good last night.

    Like

  • Judging Amy

    I like Agudelo a lot but IMO he’s being a bit overhyped on SBI. Even when he has a mediocre game, its “Juan shows such promise. He has such great work rate aka he ran like a chicken with his head cut off.”. He’ll try a dribble that doesn’t come off and its “What a great move, his skill is evident”. Has yet to show great consistency at either club or country. Not saying it won’t happen but people should probably pump the brakes on him a bit. EJ had a blazing start to his Nats career.

    Like

  • kimo

    What Brian said…

    But that will happen…

    My general concern was that he got caught flat a number of times. Over the short to intermediate term this will continue to plague Ream; however, as he gains experience, he’ll likely become quite efficient w/ his positioning. He’s definitely a keeper imo…

    Like

  • Kenny_B

    Todd,

    Let Matt opine as he sees fit regarding BK’s comments. It’s a never ending iteration of letting people opine.

    I tend to agree with Matt’s remarks that BK’s opinion (summarizing here) was stupid.

    Like

  • Zstar

    Goalkeepers are more likely to make errors with Altidore because of his cannon shot at close range. See Casillas, 2009.

    Like

  • Kenny_B

    Agree, i think Bradley put a very short ball through into the box that had Altidore been on the same page….would have been in a very dangerous position to score.

    Like

  • Don Pelayo

    Nothing like trolling in the afternoon, I see.

    Jozy was fantastic. He deserves the MOM award.

    Like

  • Don Pelayo

    Although the keeper was in a good position to make the save, Altidore’s shot was vicious. All the credit to him for getting that much power behind it and creating a goal from that tough angle.

    Like

  • Duck

    Was it Jones’ first cap in an official competition as well? I wasn’t sure if he only played friendlies before

    Like

  • BK

    Wow, the anger… “Cynicism,” “unoriginal whining,” “assumptions,” “personal bias,” “hate,” “trolling?” haha, dude…take a step back a minute and look at yourself. All the people taking my opinions of Jozy as a personal insult to them reminds me to be thankful that I have a life. Interestingly enough, the picture posted with this blog is just moments before Jozy tripped over his own feet after a half-hearted step over that top of the penalty area. Face it…He’s just not the player we all want him to be. Simple as that.

    Like

  • Ben

    EJ never evinced the technical ability that Agudelo has. Sometimes he might dribble too much, but at least he can.

    Like

  • Ben

    Yes, but how often? Once every two years or so? Jozy has always been powerful, and that is part of the problem. What he lacks is the finesse that the top strikers have. I’m not trying to bash him here, just point out that he needs to work more on placement. Also, I was happy to see that he looks much more fit than he has in the past, which shows me that he is serious about really getting better.

    Like

  • Vince

    Once you file a switch with Fifa, you can’t switch back, so technically it never mattered whether Jones played in a competition — he’s cap-tied by filing the switch.

    You only get one switch.

    Same with Edgar Castillo. Doesn’t matter what happens now, he’s cap-tied to the U.S. He can’t play for Mexico even if he’d like to switch back.

    Like

  • Judging Amy

    Very true. He also had (has?) some qualities Juan doesn’t have. Its popular to hate on EJ nowadays but back then he was seen as the future.

    And I’m not saying Agu will have the same career trajectory as EJ, just that an 18 year old is no sure thing no matter how good he is (and Juan hasn’t even been that good).

    Like

  • Judging Amy

    A legit and sensible criticism of Altidore. I wish there were more measured arguments like yours on this site, instead of all the spewed idiocy, fanboyish hype and hate.

    I might not agree with you about Altidore as a whole, but your reasonable opinion leaves room for a discussion to be had, which is what a true soccer fan should want in a forum.

    Cheers.

    Like

  • BumpBailey

    You can’t always judge a forward by speed and skills alone no matter what level. You all are probably too young but Ger Muller was a small man and not the most athletic looking player. But man, could he find a way to score a goal. All I am saying about Wondo is he reads the game well, gets himself in good positions, and he has a great shot. Now all of that doesn’t matter if he doesn’t get service. But like I said earlier the guy scores goals from half chances. He scores with both feet and, his head. And he is a tireless worker. One of these next two games are good chance to see if he can do it at that level. Maybe he can’t. For the record I like Herculez Gomez too. I always think of that guy as a guy you hate if he isn’t on your team. I think he is the perfect first off of the bench if you need to attack.

    Like

  • AdamFromMich

    He got nutmegged in the box in the second half. That is the screwup which I mentioned in my post. I don’t remember any other bad mistakes. I also think the Canadian player (Jackson) should get some credit for a nice move on the nutmeg.

    Like

  • GW

    “Face it…He’s just not the player we all want him to be. Simple as that.”

    Well now, who do you want him to be?

    Jozy right now is mediocre but I don’t care.

    The team is also mediocre but I find them entertaining,fun to root for and watch ( cue in horrified reaction of supporters of Joga Bonita. Frickin snobs. My comment to you is champagne taste,beer budget).

    They may be mediocre players but they are my mediocre players. Sort of like supporting Maryland basketball.

    Mediocre as Jozy is he still produces for the US, when it counts ( Confed Cup, WC qualifying, WC and now Gold Cup).

    His play for his various clubs has been underwhleming and his play for the US in exhibitions, well, I think he may have a twin and sends them in his place.

    But when it matters, he answers the bell better than any other US forward. You can look it up.

    And BK since you have a life and know, isn’t that what life is about?

    Besides unless I’m seriously delusional these guys all get paid by their clubs, not the USSF. And I get the endorsement opportunities, exposure leading to possible transfers and all that but the point is, they don’t have to be here.

    And if you think it isn’t risky, you need only to look at Gooch and see how his career has been compromised and possibly ended by his injury while on US duty. Yet, now that he has only one leg, (personal experience with serious knee issues) most of you treat him like a used disposable diaper, something embarassing to be swept out of sight as soon as possible.

    The effete person who said Jozy didn’t go for 50/50 balls didn’t watch the World Cup where he and Dempsey were battling to see who got more beat up, who had more bruises. Jozy was unlucky not to score against England, assisted on Bradley’s Slovenia goal, centered the ball to Dempsey that got blocked back to Donovan and was unlucky not to score against Ghana.

    I’ve watched forwards going back to Denis Law. Jozy is no Law, or Geoff Hurst, Roger Hunt, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, Alan Shearer, Gabriel Batistuta, Ricky Villa or Emilio Butrageno, no Gerd Muller or Drogba and definitely not Brian McBride.

    But he is the best the US has right now and he is only 21, so he has a chance to improve.

    If he could work his way up to be a reasonable facsimile of Joe Jordan or John Toshack circa mid 70’s, that would be just fine.

    Like

  • GW

    “He had a fine game. I would hope to see Wondolowski with the full side,”

    If I read you right, you meant you want to see what Wondo can do with the first team. The trouble with that is if he is playing it’s no longer the first team.

    Like

  • GW

    All you guys who have already buried Wondo, yes he is limited and yes maybe he’s slow, but if he can score enough goals, nothing else, absolutely nothing else matters.

    And right now, it is way too early to judge him.

    Kreis, Cooper, Twellman had their shot. If BB is willing to give Wondo his shot I say let him.

    Like

  • GW

    The USSF, BB and just about everyone else has made it crystal clear this roster is all about winning the Gold Cup not 2014. There are some questionable retreads ( Adu, Rogers) on the roster but no real newbies. Bedoya was an injury alternate.

    Like

  • GW

    Gerd Muller scored 489 goals in 565 senoir club apperances. He scored 68 goals in 62 games for Germany.He won 16 titles including the World Cup, the European championship, and three European cups. He was short and stocky amd he was a better striker than Wondo and Gomez.

    With a low center of gravity and massively strong thighs, he was very hard to move off the ball or from a spot.

    He also was far more skilled and athletic than you give him credit for. He realised that most of the balls he would get a shot at would come to him from awkward angles and at awkward heights. He always said usually the ball came in somewhere between his shoulders and his knees.

    So he would stand in the middle of the box and have the ball served to him from all the possible points of the compass. He excelled at volleys with either foot and at diving headers. If there is a tape of his practice sessions it would make a great instructional DVD.

    But most of all, he had a sixth sense of where to move and where to be, the infamous “nose for goal”.

    Neither Gomez nor Wondo is in Muellers class but I see no reason why they can’t be successful goal strikers.

    Like

  • GW

    When you were 21 did you always show the greatest judgement? I sure did not.

    Like

  • GW

    What is wrong with that?

    Life is short, you only have so many great games in you.

    Like

  • BK

    “But he is the best the US has right now and he is only 21, so he has a chance to improve.”

    That may be true. People have been saying that about Freddy Adu for 7 years. I’ll be honest though, I’ve come to expect more than a Round of 16 finish at the World Cup. Anyone Remember “Project 2010?” We were supposed to be a contender in the near future but I think we are still way off. A big reason why is this country’s inability to produce world class forwards. If Jozy is the best we have, I think we are just going to have to accept that we are only a top 32 team in the world at best.

    Like

  • Tom

    World Class??? That’s the problem with a lot of USMNT fans. You have a good, young, strong, athletic, developing 21-year-old striker and you complaning that he’s not world class. It’s completely insane. Do you even know what world class means? World class means the top player at his position IN THE WORLD! Only 11 players in the world are “world class.” Your expectations are far, far, far out of line with reality. I’m thrilled to watch a young, versatile talent laden pair of strikers like Jozy and Juan develop before our eyes. This is clearly, far and away the best young striker tandem we’ve ever seen in this country. Let’s appreciate how far we’ve come instead of pretending we’re Brazil.

    Like

  • Tom

    The EJ comp is always a natural argument, but this kid has so much more technical ability – surely you can see that?

    Like

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