photo by Don Feria/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. — Jozy Altidore did not find his elusive first U.S. Men’s National Team goal of 2014 on Sunday, but there were plenty of other signs that showed why he is still capable of making an impact this summer.
Altidore put forth a 90-minute shift in the U.S.’s 2-1 victory over Turkey at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon in which he demonstrated just how good and valuable he can be even when he is not scoring. Altidore fought hard for loose balls, chased down defenders, put himself in good positions and combined well with teammates, and that showing left everyone from U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to Turkey manager Fatih Terim impressed with the forward regardless of the fact that the wait for his next goal was prolonged.
“It is the Jozy that we want to see,” said Klinsmann. “He will sooner or later break through with goals. You’ve got to work for it, stay hungry and grind it out and sooner or later, it’s time and, boom, the ball is in the net. You can see how he keeps an opponent busy and on their toes with Clint (Dempsey).
“That’s why I left them both out there for 90 minutes. They need to really fine-tune and they need to read each other blindly and that comes over time. … They are big time players and they are, hopefully, making the difference for us this summer. Jozy is getting there.”
Altidore appeared to have put an end to his much-discussed scoreless streak when he found the back of the net off a set piece in the 15th minute, but he was called for a foul and that negated what would have been his 22nd goal for the U.S.
The 24-year-old striker did not let that faze him, as he continued to be a handful against Turkey’s defenders. Altidore was constantly involved in the Americans’ attacks for the remainder of the game, and he showed the type of enthusiasm and commitment off the ball that should quell the fears that some U.S. fans have over his ability to make an impact when he is not scoring.
“He’s a very powerful striker,” said Terim. “The type of striker that the centerbacks don’t like much. He likes to hold up the ball, therefore his teammates can join in the attack. He’s a very important player.”
Altidore will likely have to be just that in the World Cup this summer if the U.S. is to successfully maneuver its way out of a difficult Group G that includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
Yes, the opposing defenses he will face in Brazil will be as tough if not moreso than the Turkish back line he faced on Sunday. But he and his teammates have full confidence that he will be as effective in the World Cup as he was against Turkey, so long as he continues to not let the outside noise distract him from focusing on his game.
“He’s doing his part,” said Dempsey. “All he can do is keep trying to create chances. If you can keep creating chances, you’re going to have opportunities to score. I think when everybody keeps talking about it and talking about it, hopefully he’s not paying attention because that’s something that’s not helping him as a player.
“He’s a strong character, he knows what he’s done in his career, he’s played his part in helping us qualify for the World Cup. I thought he played well today and he’s a handful for any team to try to deal with and you could see today he was creating some good chances and was just unlucky not to score.”