USMNT Daily Update

USMNT Daily Update: Altidore snub a gamble that could pay long-term dividends, or blow up in Klinsmann's face

KlinsmannAltidore (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com 


Jurgen Klinsmann made sure to offer up as thorough an explanation as possible on Monday for his decision to leave Jozy Altidore off the U.S. national team roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.He pointed to national team form, and cited tactical reasons for wanting to look at new players. The explanations still rang a bit hollow though because while you can't argue with the notion that Altidore's U.S. national team form has been largely disappointing, it is extremely tough to deny that, based on recent club form, Altidore is one of the best players in the national team pool.

So why would Klinsmann leave off a player enjoying the best run of form of his professional career, a player currently scoring goals at a higher rate than anybody save for MLS MVP favorite Chris Wondolowski? Klinsmann made it clear he was unhappy with Altidore's effort, both in games and in training, an admission that reveals the Altidore snub to be about something other than fielding the best possible team for the crucial qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.

Klinsmann is sending a message, not just to Altidore, but to the entire U.S. player pool, that no job is safe, and that if you don't play well enough you can lose your spot. As admirable a stance as that is to take, the timing of it, with the national team's World Cup qualifying hopes on the line, feels very much like a risky gamble.

It is clear that Klinsmann has grown frustrated with Altidore's ineffectiveness during his coaching tenure, and his decision to snub Altidore revealed just how much, but for that decision to come on the heels of what has arguably been Altidore's best run of club form ever leaves you scratching your head.

Club form doesn't guarantee you national team success. We have seen that many times before, but Altidore is clearly playing with confidence for AZ Alkmaar, and scoring some beautiful goals that lead you to believe he is really improving as a player. That run of form did little to erase Klinsmann's memory of what he considered subpar games and training sessions from Altidore during his recent national team stints. Klinsmann's public opinion of the Dutch League (he essentially called it an easy league to score in during a recent ESPN interview) must not have helped his evaluation process either.

No, instead of calling in one of the leading scorers in Europe, Klinsmann chose to call in Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson, two players enjoying outstanding seasons in MLS and two players Klinsmann believes to be better suited to matching up against the expected bunkering defenses of Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.

It seems like a reasonable enough thought process except for the fact that a significant part of the reason for Altidore's struggles has been the lack of service provided him by the U.S. attack in his recent appearances. It isn't as if perfect crosses and through passes are being delivered Altidore's way with regularity, and it isn't as if he is squandering clear-cut chances.

it is tough to believe that Klinsmann's decision to leave Altidore out is really about tactics, and not about wanting to send Altidore a wake-up call Klinsmann feels he needs, even if it means not calling in the strongest possible team.

That is what makes Klinsmann's decision a gamble, and the fact the U.S. has yet to secure its place in the next round of World Cup qualifying makes it a risky gamble. If things get weird in the upcoming matches, and the U.S. find themselves needing a goal, and one of Klinsmann's reclamation projects winds up wasting a chance that costs the United States the World Cup, Klinsmann will be toast, as will the U.S> national team.

You have to give Klinsmann credit though. While he may be gambling, he also knows the odds are considerably in his favor. He knows that the United States should be able to secure the necessary points to qualify, and the roster he has called in is still more than good enough to beat Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. He knows Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez are his leading forward options, which means he would have very likely used Altidore off the bench. Johnson is playing well enough right now to be a servicable option in that sort of role, so from a practical standpoint Altidore's absence shouldn't make a big difference.

So why take the chance? Consider it a long-term strategic bet. It is Klinsmann's best chance to send a unmistakable message to Altidore to light a fire under him heading into the final round of World Cup qualifying in 2013. We have seen Gertjen Verbeek get the most out of Altidore with the help of some tough love so maybe Klinsmann see this as his opportunity to crack the whip and hopefully unleash the version of Altidore that also scores national team goals in bunches. Klinsman needs that Altidore to emerge in 2013 because the final round of World Cup qualifying isn't going to be easy.

If things go according to plan, the U.S. will advance in World Cup qualifying and Klinsmann will score major points for his roster decisions even though, in the grand scheme of things, the United States shouldn't have had any trouble with Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala either way. Klinsmann will receive the bulk of the credit for a successful finish to this round of qualifying and, will not only head into the Hexagonal round of qualifying in stronger standing, he will also have the attention of a player pool that will have gotten the message that nobody's job is safe.

And if he's lucky, he may even find himself fielding a more motivated Jozy Altidore in 2013, a player that no coach in their right mind would consider leaving off a roster.

All of these things make it a worthwhile gamble for Klinsmann. That's IF things go according to plan.

If things go badly, and if the Americans have more trouble with these last two qualifiers than they should, or even fail to qualify, and players like Gordon and Johnson fail to step up when called upon, Klinsmann will have plenty to answer for, and one of the first questions he will be asked was whether leaving out Jozy Altidore was a mistake.

  • Mark

    I’m so glad that Jozy Altidore was not called up.

    Apart from being lazy, he doesn’t play with heart or conviction. He’s afraid to fight for 50/50 balls. He’s afraid to jump for a header from a cross into the box. He doesn’t even exert energy if the service is not absolutely perfect.

    Here’s my favorite forwards:

    Herculez Gomez, Clint Dempsey, Terence Boyd, Chris Wondolowski


  • danny

    Say what you will about Chandler… but I’ve only seen him give 100% every time he plays for the Nats. He PLAYS like a fighter… whether or not he’s committing to the U.S. Nats for World Cup is a different issue.


  • solles

    there are FAR more people outside England than inside who seem to think the English are delusional about their world standing in football. Most English I know recognize a Quarter Final finish for them at Euro or the World Cup is about all they can hope for.


  • Eddie

    You’ve asked the question that has been puzzling me as well. Why can’t JK get similar results out of Jozy? Perhaps it has something to do with the constantly shifting midfield with no creativity that has something to do with it. Until, and if, Holden returns, what is Klinsmann going to do to remedy this issue?

    What bothers me most is the US has a good team, but it is not at the level where a manager can afford not to take his best players, and Jozy is arguably the best option at forward. If Klinsmann really has an issue with Jozy’s effort then he should work with him in training.


  • Bobby

    I think we should just suit Klinsmann up! He looks fit! And you KNOW that mug could still put the ball in the back of the ole onion bag!


  • solles

    a “little bit better”, “working on it” and being “positive” are not the same as “hard working”.


  • Old School


    You probably aren’t far off. I’m sure he could put in a solid 15-20 minutes off the bench.


  • Carlo

    I don’t always agree with you on everything Ives! But the fact that you present every side of the story is why I always visit this site everyday! Congrats on that!


  • THomas

    Yes. Beckerman is true number 6 and the only other player JK sees as a true number 6 is Williams. He thinks Jones/Bradley are 8’s and that Edu belongs at CB.


  • THomas

    OMFG…can we please get over the tweet thing? I just read Grant Wahl’s article on SI and it has a lot of good quotes from Altidore. He was saying all of the right things, so let’s just hope that when he’s call in next time, he does all of the right things in training and on the field.


  • ronniet23

    sasha was called against italy which was about a year ago and his perforance wasn’t anything to brag about! Get off the lying kick guys, JK hasn’t lied about anything and he has the right to change his mind from game to game depending on the situation/opponent! Why keep calling up jozy when he gives the nats nothing and hasnt for 2 years now? Give it a rest


  • DynaMatt

    nice try jb, or should i say JURGEN?!

    What i really don’t understand is if Jurgen wanted to send him a message, bring him in and have him train with the USMNT and then don’t play him. He bitches that Jozy doesn’t try to adapt to his system, then why waste the practice sessions? It isn’t as if Jozy is with the squad week in and week out.


  • beachbum

    Jozy’s dip in USMNT goal scoring coincides with Klinsmann’s arrival, and interestingly all this while Jozy has been in his best club form ever

    hard for me to conclude therefore it’s all Jozy’s issue, and what a freakin’ firestorm this has become. The team may overcome it considering the opponents and the quality of the players on the USMNT and particularly its midfield for these two games, but you can’t tell me the timing of this public display and subsequent bruhaha has helped prepare this team better for the two quali games.

    GO USA!!!


  • Sean

    Probably because neither has done too well with their MLS teams – both of which are languishing at the bottom of the East.


  • GW

    She. Dr Watson in the new Shelock Holmes. Played one of Charlie’s Angels. First name Lucy.


  • Andrew H.

    Does it bother anyone else that Jozy doesn’t sing the national anthem or even put his hand over his heart? Also, I think Donovan could be benches in the next round of qualifiers if we qualify.


  • biff


    And there was a guy who posted on a thread yesterday who was in Columbus and he claims Jozy on the field as a late sub was giving no effort at all, which I did not pick up on the video broadcast. But if Klinsmann felt Jozy was not giving 100% in the last 10 minutes of a must-win game then one could interpret as meaning that Klinsmann does not trust Jozy in these last two crucial games and simply does not want him on the field but only players that he trusts.


  • biff

    “Yes, JKs immediate goal is to make it to WC 2014, but the more important goal is to change the culture surrounding the US National team.”

    Are you serious, man? Do you really believe that changing the culture surrounding the US National team is more important than qualifying for WC 2014?


  • al17

    Thanks for the correction but I stand by what I said. He’s a hypocrite. The number of call ups Torres (whom I like) and Castillo (whom I don’t like) continued to get despite their performances when playing with the Nats during this same period is more than enough proof for me.


  • Slobodan

    yup. thanks. was going to say the same thing…
    “…and while you can’t argue with the notion that Altidore’s U.S. national team form has been largely disappointing, it is extremely difficult to argue that he still remains one of the national team pool’s best forwards.”


  • Dennis

    Well, It was when Bradley was coach that the academy teams came about. They were encouraged to play fewer, but more important games, devote more time to training. Bradley used to talk nearly daily with each of the national level coaches in efforts to ensure that they were approaching things in the same sort of way and he listened to their advice. No one person has a perfect vision of the future and Bradley was smart enough to know that. Bob was always striving to push players along to be a little better.

    Changes, not so much, the present youth coach Williams was one of Bradley’s proteges from Metrostar days. So I find it kind of silly to say Klinsmann has changed things that much, sure things have continued to evolve, but nothing earth-shaking. Well, maybe you just weren’t paying attention.

    Biggest difference is Klinsmann talks more.


  • Dennis

    Sure, the reason Jozy didn’t score is because he was largely on the bench. I didn’t score either, but I tried real hard. Faulting a player who gets few minutes for not scoring is silly. Wondolowski and Altidore are similar in that regard.


  • Ted in MN

    I agree with you which is also why I think you missed my point. Good teams do miss the World Cup and the USMNT is a long way away from those that you’ve mentioned.
    What I’m trying to say is that a great deal of interest in soccer in the US is dependent upon the World Cup and the US appearance there. While MLS is much better off than any soccer league in the US has ever been, the sport simply doesn’t have the popularity that it does in those other countries where its the primary one. Missing the World Cup is something that could have longterm implications throughout US soccer. Even if the US were to say make the 18 version, an 8 year gap would do much more damage here than in most of the world.


  • robbo

    I think Klinsman took this action not to call in Jozy to cover for his incompetence and ineffectiveness as a Coach. The USA has no shown much progress under Klinsman. He needs to go. He is destroying the chemistry if this team. He needs to go. You suck Klinsman.


  • Elite Hunting

    You said Jozy had not started for over a year when, in fact, he started a month ago. THAT was a made up fact. Your evaluation of a player in 10 minutes of play proves that you don’t know what you are looking at and have a predetermined bias. Which makes everything you say irrelevant.


  • Dennis

    Not quite. It seems to me that Bradley never said anything bad about Jozy (or for that matter publicly about any player), but did get good performances out of Jozy against Spain, and in the W.C. Could it be that Klinsmann is more about Klinsmann that anything else?


  • Mark Maxen

    beckerman is actually very consistent in not losing balls…the jamaica away game was unlucky


  • Mark Maxen

    edu is an offensive minded option at centerback that could be the next step in the evolution into k manns style. What cb do we have that can pick a pass other than Geoff?
    Sounds fun.


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