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Monday Morning Centerback: Altidore finding his fire

Jozy Altidore 2 (

Jozy Altidore is 20 years old. He's a starting striker in the English Premier League and he's begun playing the type of soccer expected of him when he drew a $10 million transfer as a teenager.

Oh, and in case you forgot, he is American.

This seems silly to point out here, but it seems some folks lose sight of the fact that Altidore is a 20-year-old American striker playing in the world's biggest league. He hadn't scored a league goal until Saturday's beautiful finish in Hull's 2-1 win vs. Manchester City, but even before that goal he was already showing signs of being a young player figuring things out.

A 20-year-old American striker playing (and now starting) in the world's biggest league who is playing well as a starter. Think about that for a second. Doesn't that sound like a strange combination? It should, because there has never been one before, which is why American fans need to appreciate watching his evolution as a player.

Sure, Altidore's goal against Manchester City is just one goal in league play, but the signs in recents weeks are promising for a player who saw most of his first year in Europe wasted on benches in Spain. He could have let that time disillusion him, but Altidore's exploits with the U.S. national team surely helped keep his confidence boosted. Even after arriving in England, and having his Twitter fiasco threaten his playing time, Altidore kept pushing forward and kept giving manager Phil Brown reasons to put him on the field.

Now here we are, five months from the World Cup and Altidore is playing inspired soccer and looking more confident with each passing week. Whether it's the natural progression of maturity, or the motivation of wanting to play well for his family and all the rest of the people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, or both, Altidore is playing with a consistent fire we haven't seen since 2007, Altidore's only full season as an MLS starter with the New York Red Bulls.

In 2007, Altidore got the first taste of being a regular starter and the way he blossomed that year is very similar to how he's now looking for Hull, with his game growing as he makes full use of his combination of size, speed and strength. Things are a bit different now, with Altidore gaining invaluable experience playing against the best defenders money can buy. The goals hadn't come before Saturday, but what had come was a real belief that he can play on that level. You could see that much in the way he has gone at defenders and in the way he has pushed his way into the action.

Saturday's goal is hardly a destination, but moreso a starting point for a young player who is striding confidently into uncharted territory for an American striker. He is still learning as a player, and is far from a finished product, but these are positives, negatives. And no, one goal isn't enough, but it could mean everything if it helps Altidore find his identity as a goal-scoring striker in the English Premier League.

A 20-year-old American goal-scoring striker in the English Premier League. Sounds strange doesn't it?

Maybe not for long.


  1. Who says I am crying about anything?

    And don’t worry about where I was 20 years ago. I’m old enough to not think I’m cool by being snarky on a message board.

  2. What I can’t understand is why so few people seem to GET this idea. Yeah…a striker’s primary responsibility is to score. But it’s not his ONLY responsibility. Jozy has been increasing his contributions in so many other ways, yet for some reason the only thing people seem to be focusing on has been the lack of putting the ball in the net.

    Yeah…it’s just one goal. But if it was ONLY one goal, then this article never would have been written. Jozy’s game has improved SO much more than just that single goal could ever show. It’s nice that Ives (and others) are noticing.

  3. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 1st the US is a defensive minded team who use the couter attack as their primary weapon. This tends to lead to low scoring matches. 2nd, even if he does do well this WC…does not mean he’ll be on the roster for either or both the 2014 or 2018 WC’s. Different coaches like different types of players based on their systems. Additionally he could fall to the wayside like EJ did after the 06 WC, or fall victim to injury. You never know. He needs to take advantage of the opportunity he’s got, then look to the future.

  4. jozy’s 5 assists are equal to that of rooney, anelka and teves. only a handful of strikers have more assists. he draws penalties, fouls, and yellow cards. his persoanl point contributions are REALLY helping them stay afloat.

  5. Edit: Think I just realized shirt wasn’t from Uk-based site. Followed a couple quick links from a Hull forum w/o paying much attention. Been a long day. All about a good cause, but was more excited, well…when it looked like the Brits were excited about Jozy. After further consideration, I will hold off until I secure some old skool Bo Jackson’s to match that lovely color:)

  6. you guys may be getting a little ahead of yourselves. yes, it’s very exciting, but let’s just see how he does this summer.

  7. Extremely exciting to witness his development unfold, & obviously very encouraging for this summer.

    Have caught most of his games this year & feel his progress, while maybe not spectacular or “highlight worthy”, has actually been largely steady & fairly visible to see for anybody willing to pay attention.

    I understand there will always exist a certain element of knee-jerk “the sky’s falling” overreactions among US fans regarding our players. Doesn’t make it any easier to live through for those of us with, shall we say, a more “grounded” outlook. I suppose one could chalk it up as increased passion & further evidence of the growing US soccer market?? And to be fair, I suppose the crazies exist all over. But again, no less painful to experience nonetheless.

    Came across this on one of the Hull sites, thought it worth passing along. Apparently US Nat fans aren’t the only ones who have been anxiously awaiting Jozy’s first Prem goal. Supposedly all proceeds above cost (stated as 10%…yes I admit to being inherently skeptical of “charities” & related causes) will go towards Haiti relief efforts.


  8. i can only dream how incredible that was to score a goal in an EPL game… at 20 years old too.. Heres to years of goals in the future!

  9. Yup, and then imagine Findley coming on as a sub late in the game……i know Findley is young too, and plays in the MLS, but he’s dangerous too, his touch is really good

  10. Jozy is will be the American Wayne Rooney. The US can do well at this world cup and have a real shot in years to come with some of our key talent playing at the top level. We have a young squad that have at least 2 cups in them(including this one). I’m not worried about Onyewu because Milan will keep him playing for the next 10 yrs anyway.

  11. Freddy Adu is not 20 years old. Face it. He’s either forged his birth certificate or his parents did and didn’t tell him. He hasn’t grown an inch since he supposedly was 14. He was 5’8 then and is still 5’8 today. Stop being so naive. This stuff happens all the time in sports with the money at stake.

  12. I believe it was reported that Hull has an exclusive option to buy that was placed at £6.5m, so if they want him for that much they can have him. Another wrinkle that is worth noting is the new TV deal that the premiership negotiated worth £1.8b, which has £50m+/yr distributed to each club (the previous deal was worth ~£28m/yr), takes effect starting at the conclusion of the current campaign. Obviously this cash infusion won’t all be used for transfer fees / player wages but it can be assumed that some percentage will.

  13. I think the term you’re looking for is Bipolar.

    And if ecstasy for every Jozy goal followed by sorrow for every failure or setback is bipolar then count me, and many other otherwise sane USMNT fans, as one on the emotional seesaw that is following their emerging national team.

    Every injury punches me in the gut, and every goal scored fills me with joy.

  14. Like Jozy, Wayne Rooney played his first world cup following the season in which he turned 20. Here are his career stats as of the end of the 2006 World Cup:

    18 Goals in 80 Appearances for Everton 02-04
    36 Goals in 91 Appearances for Manchester United 04-06
    4 Goals in 22 Appearances for England, Including 4 World Cup Games (did not score)

  15. I understand completely those points. That’s why I suggested such a low strike rate. Anyway, I support Jozy 100%; he is still by far our best healthy striker right now. Just trying to be realistic (I know, what am I thinking).

  16. That is a great point.

    I hadn’t thought of the possibility of such a move but it would be an excellent one for Arsenal and Jozy. He’s certainly young enough to fit into Wenger’s transfer strategy and he brings a physical presence and power that Arsenal sorely lack. Playing at Arsenal would certainly improve Jozy’s range of passing and tactical awareness.

    The only problem is that Jozy is, as has been said, not a target forward as of yet. Would Wenger sacrifice two of this tricky diminutive playmakers in order to put Jozy and a target forward like Dzeko up top? (by the way, I think that pairing would be unstoppable)

    If Arsene can admit that the current system will certainly crush West Ham, but cannot defeat United or Chelsea, then he might accept the need for two physical forwards. In a perfect world (not that I think this would ever happen) an Arsenal lineup might put Fabregas and Denilson/Song in the middle, Nasri and Arshavin as wings/attacking outside mids, and Dzeko and Jozy as strikers.

  17. Why not the first of 4? Won’t he be 32 in 2022? He may lose a step, but he’ll have the same physique and an even better knowledge of how to use it.

  18. Would love to see that….an american in one of the top 5-6 teams. Unfortunatly don’t see it happening for a few more years, Say after the 2014 WC for the likes of Bradley, Jozy, Edu, etc… They have to finish their development, as not many TOP clubs are going to Sign US players a development prospects after the Adu & Johnson failures.

  19. Well, it’s one goal…however, 20 year-old starting stikers in the EPL have traditionally been from powerhouse football nations, so this is definitley encouraging. We may need him to carry quite a load up top this summer, ESPECIALLY if Davies cannot get back.

  20. golfstrom…a couple of points. 1) it takes time to settle into a team and learn the tendancies of your teamates. Since the break I’d say Jozy has made significant improvements in his understanding of the game and his team. 2) Strikers need service. If you’re a striker and all your service is desperate boom balls out of the back to run down…you’re not going to have a lot of success in scoring. but Now that Hull’s midfield is actually stringing passes together maybe Jozy can actually get some decient service and go on a tear. In any case well all have to wait and see if Hull & Jozy can keep up the good work and continue to improve.

  21. Call me crazy,…but as I watched Arsenal’s very smooth and elegant,…yet smurffish forwards and midfielders (Walcott, Arshavin, Fabragas, Nasri, etc.) get swept aside by Chelsea with the strength and power of Drogba, Anelka, Ballack, Terry, etc.,…I couldn’t help but think that a strapping lad like Jozy could help the Gunners.

  22. Actually the Villarreal situation was complicated from the beginning mostly because of the timing of his original purchase and his loan to Xerez.

    I can’t recall the name of an Irish reporter that covers Spanish football who once compared Jozy to Ronaldo (El Fenomeno) in the way he faces the goal and runs at defenders. Unfortunately for Jozy, when he arrive at Villarreal, his skills and touch were not to the level to be able to play in the first team and it was supposed to take at least one full year in a lesser team or the B league to get used to the style.

    Well, the Xerez loan was a nightmare, but I think at some point someone realized that Jozy might not be suited for the Spanish game. That and the fact that Villarreal has a couple of players in their B team that are waiting to make their move up.

    It is a pity because it would have been interesting to see him develop the touch of the Spanish game. But if he is happy and has success in the EPL, more power to him.



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