By FRANCO PANIZO
Jozy Altidore was down in the dumps.
The 2014 World Cup was supposed to be an opportunity for him to shine, to do away with all the criticisms about his inability to score after a rough season at Sunderland, to showcase his game on the grandest of stages. But a hamstring injury picked up 23 minutes into the U.S. Men’s National Team’s tournament opener against Ghana prevented that from happening, leaving Altidore out for the remainder of the Americans’ stay in Brazil and so frustrated that he recently admitted to SunderlandEcho.com that it was the lowest point of his career.
Yes, even lower than the one-goal debut season he had at Sunderland.
“I would say the first couple of days (after the injury) were the biggest disappointment in my life as a professional,” said Altidore. “It was incredibly difficult. I’d done the injury before in 2011, so realizing how it felt, I instantly knew it would be very difficult for me to come back.
“I was just miserable. I’ve never felt so low as a player. You look forward to it for so long and I was feeling really good and confident. I was excited to give everything for the team, so for that to happen, I don’t really have the words.”
The 24-year-old forward remained with the team in Brazil despite knowing it was unlikely that he could return. There was a glimmer of public hope when U.S. Soccer announced that Altidore was “available and ready” for the Round of 16 match against Belgium – which the U.S. lost, 2-1, in extra time to bow out of the tournament – but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann admitted afterwards that he knew Altidore would not play in the game.
As crushing as it was to Altidore to not be able to return from the Grade 2 hamstring tear he suffered on June 16, he knew he needed to find other ways to make an impact. He wound up doing just that, rooting his teammates on and encouraging them in any way possible.
“But after a couple of days, you have to understand it’s not about you,” said Altidore. “It’s about the team. You have to try your best to be positive and be the guy who still gives something any way you can. The challenge for me was to still be upbeat and give something in other ways.”
With the tournament now in his rearview mirror, Altidore is getting ready to return to Sunderland at the end of this week. He still is not fully recovered from his hamstring problem, but is getting closer and has set his sights on returning to the way he felt prior to suffering that fateful injury.
“I’m just focused on getting healthy and back to how I was before the World Cup,” said Altidore.
What do you think of Altidore calling the injury the low point of his career? Still not over the fact that he got hurt before the World Cup ever really began? Think he will bounce back at Sunderland this season?
Share your thoughts below.