Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
For the first time since his move to AZ Alkmaar in 2010, Jozy Altidore is living the frustrating life of a forward who isn’t scoring goals.
The U.S. Men’s National Team regular has yet to score through ten games in the English Premier League and he’s already on his second head coach since he joined this summer. Despite the scoring struggles for his club, Altidore has been more than a handful for the USA this calendar year, scoring eight times in World Cup qualifying and friendly matches combined.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has preached patience for the 24-year-old striker as he gets ready to face Scotland and Austria in the final two international matches of the year.
“He has a very positive attitude and has come a long way already in his young career and will get stronger,” Klinsmann told U.S. Soccer after seeing Altidore in person in last Sunday’s 1-0 Sunderland victory vs. Manchester City.
“I told him, ‘You will score your goals sooner or later’ if you have that mentality that you develop now, if you have that drive to get through those periods where you haven’t scored, which for a striker is always the most important thing. He really matured a lot over the last year and deserves a huge compliment.
“Now we need to give him patience, and I think the club has done that very well bringing him through that stretch. Hopefully for Sunderland, he starts to score more goals. They will produce chances and eventually he will score.”
While Altidore and the other European-based players work through their struggles or look to maintain some recent positive form for their club sides, the Major League Soccer-based players head into the November USMNT camp on the backs of a long and weary 2013, that’s seen players like Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, and Clint Dempsey travel across the globe for matches this season.
Dempsey in particular never really adjusted to the Seattle Sounders since he joined the club in early August, struggling with not having a preseason, injuries, and just a lack of consistency. But even though the season is over, Klinsmann has continued to push the USMNT players in MLS to go out and find a winter loan in Europe to continue playing and challenging themselves at a high level.
Klinsmann also revealed that a large intention for calling up some of the MLS-based players who’s seasons are over is to give them an opportunity to come to Europe again and see the environment’s they’d play in, in person.
“We made it clear, our priority number one for them is finding a team to get on loan for January-February into March, or if that is not possible, you have to be with us in January camp. That is mandatory. We start on Jan. 6 in Los Angeles,” Klinsmann said.
“If a player has the opportunity to go on loan, you’ve got to go for it. You’re in real competition, you’re in a real competitive environment, you’ve got to have a point to prove and kick-start 2014 that way. We all observe their individual situation. Whenever we can be of help, we will be. But it is important to us to cut short their vacation time, not making it longer than four weeks in December because it would take far too long to get back into shape and get back into a rhythm before the beginning of 2014 and we can’t afford that.”
In addition, with a handful of regular starters like Graham Zusi and Matt Besler still taking part in the MLS Cup playoffs and others like Landon Donovan or Clarence Goodson recovering from injuries, the November camp is a good chance for some players who may be on the fringes to earn a chance to be seen by Klinsmann and his staff.
One player in particular who could take advantage of his situation is Eric Lichaj, who hasn’t played for the USMNT since the 2011 Gold Cup final, the last match that Bob Bradley was in charge for. In the past two seasons, the 24-year-old struggled to earn a regular place in the Aston Villa starting lineup, but his move to Championship club Nottingham Forrest has paid early dividends, starting in 13 of his side’s 15 games this season.
As we’ve seen from players recently such as Besler, Zusi, and Alejandro Bedoya, all it takes is one opportunity for a player to prove that they deserve a place in the squad, and maybe even a place in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
“Every time someone is missing because of an injury, it’s a huge opportunity for the next one to come in and get that shot,” Klinsmann said. “If Edgar Castillo can’t come (due to injury), then suddenly Eric Lichaj has an opportunity to show where he’s at. He hasn’t been with us since I took over two-and-a-half years ago. We love these kinds of situations because it gives a special kind of energy to the group because it’s full of guys that want to prove something.”