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

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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.


  1. You are allowed to lose faith. Just don’t put him to death for being a witch until he has proven he is a witch. And don’t hold someone to every word they ever uttered in an interview.
    It is not like the US has a track record of amazing coaches.
    We have a track record of mediocrity. Most other nations do as well.

  2. I don’t really care to look at this as Klinsmann vs. Jozy, or this being about a Jozy attitude problem. I’ve always been bugged that Jozy is not much of a threat in the air (for club or country), despite his big body and athleticism. Herc’s work rate is fabulous, he’s scored goals for the Nats, and there’s no problem with filling out the striker pool with guys who have been scoring on headers. For all of EJ’s attitude issues in the past, he’s still among the fastest strikers in the pool, he’s added an impressive aerial game, and is worth another chance. I’m fine with Gordon too, although I’d probably have taken Lenny instead, simply because he will do everything in his power to win the ball in the box (and I’m a Sounders fan)

  3. Straight from the horses mouth.


    For those that aren’t aware, it’s a figure of speech. I’m not literally calling Jozy a horse.

  4. Grant Wahl has an interesting take on the Jozy snub as well today. Here is a quote from the article:

    When I came right out and asked Altidore — are you and Klinsmann on the same page? — he answered straight up. “I’m the student here,” Altidore said. “I’m the player and I’m learning always. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand. I have to get on the same page as the boss and all the senior players, not the other way around. I’m not a guy who can walk into the team and say, ‘Guys, adjust to me.’ That’s not my mindset. I’m trying to get on the same page as them, and until I do that I’m sure I won’t be playing. I want to try and do that as quickly as possible. I want to score great goals for the national team and be dominant for them. But unfortunately it’s not so easy sometimes when the styles of play are much different.”

  5. As far as I’m concerned, if altidore’s attitude is a problem which JK clearly think so, then send him a message. I’m with Jk on this. Attitude is everything

  6. England. That’s your proof that it’ll be OK if we miss out. Really? A delusional, over-rated, second world country thinking they can win the World Cup. Really? Ever heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect?
    Clearly you confuse the strength of the EPL($) with a good MNT.

  7. I actually remember that exact play.

    I yelled at my friend because of it. I turned right at him and screamed, “that’s why Herculez Gomez deserves every minute he is on the pitch–he would have continued that run.”

    It was I think a tipping point with me and Jozy where the fandom was overcome by the disgust at lack of effort.

  8. So when he says (and I am paraphrasing here) that he will incorporate specialist on a case-by-case, as needed basis one can see how that would conflict with his other stricter stances (like no new players or club form, etc.) But JK has specifically laid out why the new guys are here, which – like it or not – does make sense.

    Then there’s the “but he was just prasing Jozy crowd” who find it conflicting that he has followed carrot with stick. Also, nothing new in the teaching and nurturing of young people.

    I get it some people really like Jozy and others really hate JK and for some this presents the perfect synergy between these groups. We can pick and choose and nit-pick and complain all we like. But when you use ALL of what JK has said in past interviews (not just the parts we like) – I am not sure about the claims of hypocricy.

  9. Everyone and their brother talks about the Jamaica game as if they have short term memory. Do you remember how lazy Jozy was in the Guatemala game when he acted like a diva and demanded the pass from Bradley late in game? Then Bradley finally made the pass across the box, and Jozy stopped running; if he continued on the run like a hard-working Gomez, it could have been a foregone conclusion to the final score.

  10. “Are you the definition of a level headed poster? I don’t think a “level headed poster” would provide such an emotional outburst, or tell others to eat crow because their opinions don’t agree with their own.”

    The response is in kind to being routinely called a hater for stating verbatim what JK finally omitted.

    Whether or not you agree with my is irrelevant. If it doesn’t apply to you, keep moving.

  11. Did he say it is THE most important, or that it is important. Big difference. Should he make the best decision he can for the team based on all of the facts…. or on a fragmented piece of a statement to the media at one time?

    You have to keep in mind, what is presented/said to players within the privacy of the locker room is often quite different in tone and content to that presented to the media.

  12. Yes, his 10 minute performance in Columbus was plenty to determine it was lazy. It was must-win, we had a 1 goal advantage and Jamaica had some momentum. Jozy was brought in to kill the game, had fresh legs, and did very little to pressure Jamaica, made little effort to do anything useful to help the team. I made up no facts and have no bias. Jozy seems like a nice kid with loads of potential, and as a US fan I wish him the best.

    But here’s your fact: His performance for the US over the last year have not been good enough, and worse, his effort hasn’t been either.

  13. A ridiculous statement. Good teams miss World Cups all the time. Let’s remember: the USMNT is not Germany, Italy, Argentina, or Brazil.

    Missing a World Cup has never stopped England from thinking they will win the next one!

  14. Except…. Jozy’s tweet was a reaction to previous criticism regarding his play and his effort. This has obviously been a problem for a while if one looks at JKs words over a long term period as well as JA’s lack of playing time. The tweet most certainly didn’t help his cause being the exact opposite response a coach would hope for, but to insinuate that it is ALL that this is about is ridiculous.

    I say this as a fan of Josy’s who fully believes he will be in our starting 11 and productive for years to come. I think this is a necessary bump in the road for a young player to develop into a great person and player. Based on what I’ve seen of him in interviews and Eredivise play, I think he has potential to be both- I’d bet JK does as well. Cheers.

  15. Agreed. The damage he could do in the long run to US soccer by missing a World Cup is much worse than any benefit he could provide by redoing the youth system. The phrase “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind if he fails.

  16. This decision illustrates to me why firing Bradley and hiring Klinsmann was the right one. It is also why Ives is a reporter and an opinion maker (and generally good at both although a little late in recognizing that players like Ricardo Clark and Oguchi Onyewu should not have been starting for the U.S. in the World Cup), but not the USMNT coach. Klinsmann has the guts to hold Jozy accountable for his actions and to not select him.. Now, the U.S. must qualify, which I expect, for this to be borne out as the right decision.

  17. I’m seeing a lot of talk about how it’s contradictory how Klinsmann has said he wants people to be in good club form and then snubs Jozy. Personally, I don’t think it is.

    Klinsmann hasn’t said that club form is the ONLY criteria for his selection process, just that it’s one of the major factors. In fact, I’d argue that it’d be worse if club form was the only selection criteria because then you could make the arguement that Dempsey shouldn’t have been called in last set of rounds and same with Bradley this time (Just coming back). Same with Danny Williams, who wasn’t playing before the last set of call ups, and he turned in a brilliant performance against Jamaica.

    Klinsmann is looking at numerous things, including club form, but also chemistry, tactics, versatility and fitness too. He’s selected the players he thinks that give him the best chance to win both games with the tactics he sees as the most effective. You can easily have an arguement over whether or not his tactics are valid and that’s absolutely fair. However, personally I don’t think it’s right to call him hypocritical on this. We all make exceptions to our criteria when it comes to selections and JK is no different. The fact is that there are always going to be people upset or disappointed with who is or isn’t called up.

    In the end, all that matters is getting the results. If the US loses then JK’s head can be called for based on the results, but if we end up winning both games then I have a feeling this will just fade away for the time being.

  18. “All of these things make it a worthwhile gamble for Klinsmann. That’s IF things go according to plan.”

    No equivocating, Ives. It’s either a worthwhile gamble or it’s not. You don’t judge the merit of a gamble after the fact.

    The risks and rewards are known. Make a call.

  19. I’m looking beyond the obvious snub of Altidore. I don’t think this is just JK not calling in one player. I think this is part of his overall plan to shift the way the US team operates and Jozy happened to be the right player at the right time to make an example of.

    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. That doesn’t happen overnight, or in one cycle, or by not calling in one player. It takes time and has to start somewhere.

    Your club form and playing time will get you noticed and may get you the call up, but once they are in camp players have to be held accountable for their performance with the National Team both during games and in training.

  20. Yeah, but watching on first row sports is like playing russian roulette with your computer. Some links are fine while others try to download a trojan or open porn sites. I hate that BeIn is only on the Comcast premium digital package.

  21. Absolutely! I’m so pissed off that we can’t watch out national team play, without having to subscribe to cable or dish. Please someone post where we can stream this

  22. I completely agree. As I stated below, he has been a hypocrite about the players he calls up. I have not been impressed with him yet and I’m starting to lose faith that he is the coach to lead us to the next level

  23. Good post. We all love to be the armchair coach, and if I may: When choosing between Jozy and Gomez, it’s a no brainier. Gomez puts it all out there, sacrifices his body, is aggressive towards the goal, does well checking back, and hustles more than anyone on the field. In fact, he’s one of my favorite players to ever wear the Nats jersey for all the reasons I stated, PLUS, his story is compelling. Jozy, quite simply, hasn’t performed well at all over the last 14 months for the US, just like Klinnsman says. He is a fine player, but I think Klinsmann knows what he’s doing, and what it takes to for Jozy to take his play to the next level – just look at Jurgen’s playing career.
    Hopefully Jozy will not let this bother him too much long term, and honestly I’m excited to see EJ play again – he’s much better than he was in the past.

  24. Fair points, though I would disagree that the Italy and Mexico wins were ‘bunkerball’. We had similar amount of possession against Italy, and against Mexico, with a B team, we defended with enough organization to completely fluster them in their own stadium. And if you want cohesion, you have to respect the man who was hired to make these decisions and give him the full cycle to figure it out. If it doesnt work out, I’ll be all for a change. Hope we can keep you away from the soaps.

  25. Are you the definition of a level headed poster? I don’t think a “level headed poster” would provide such an emotional outburst, or tell others to eat crow because their opinions don’t agree with their own.

    I think Ive’s article provides a level-headed assessment of this situation. Jozy’s omission is somewhat surprising but not necessarily unwarranted, it could be useful to send a message to him and potentially others, but it could also backfire in the highly unlikely event that the U.S. doesn’t get out of this round of qualification.

  26. I’ve been a huge believer in pulling back both Benny and Adu into the USMNT mix. Not sure why JK doesn’t see it that way.

    I disagree that Beckerman is on par the Jones or Edu. Though I’m not huge fans of either, Jones plays well at times, and I like Edu’s athleticism in the back. He gives away the ball far too much when he plays in the midfield.

    If I was the coach for WC 2014, my starting 11 would be:

  27. The more I think about JK’s comments the more I think it’s a cover up. If he is citing Jozy’s performance against Jamiaca as a reason then shouldn’t the majority of the team from that game have not been called up. My opinion is that this is a huge mistake and I hope doesn’t come back to haunt us. I’m really starting to get tired of JK’s hypocritical ways. He says you need to be playing consistently and then calls up people that are riding the bench. He says you need to be performing for your club and then he leaves the ones that are performing at home.

  28. I was thinking along these lines, too. Klinsmann is betting that these two games are going to be dogfights, and he wants guys out there who he knows are going to battle and scrap for every last ball and do anything it takes to get the result.

    I just don’t think he’s confident that Jozy is one of those guys. As fans, we’ve seen Jozy come up big in big games in the past(e.g. Spain in the Confed Cup), but this hasn’t happened on Klinsmann’s watch, so he prefers guys like Gomez and Gordon (at least for the time being). It’s obviously still a big gamble, but I don’t think Klinsmann is completely crazy here.

  29. 3 different coaches have benched Jozy to “send a message.” One of those coaches has now done it 3 times.

    Freddy Adu gets crushed around here for attitude problems, and he actually produces for country when given the chance.

    The double standard is staggering.

  30. It was putrid and lazy when what we expect from our players is for them to run around like headless chickens. At least then they are hustling and not lazy.

  31. “If things get weird…” made me think of “I’m looking for a very specific type of weird. I’m looking for niche weird”

  32. Ives, you need to change the last clause of that monster first paragraph/sentence. “it is extremely difficult to argue that he still remains one of the national team pool’s best forwards” suggests the opposite of what I supposed you wanted it to mean.

  33. Contradictions?

    Personally, I think JK has done exactly what bhe said he would,

    Challenge guys to compete at a high level.

    A level enjoyed by the Dutch ( ironically) the French and others.

    Benching Altidore is not that big a deal.

    He an many other “starters” layed an egg in both games against Jamaica.

    Is Michael Bradley that infuencial?

    The team needs to get its act together point blank.

    If JK does not make decisions liek this then he’s gone. simple as that.

    I think a lot of folks continue to underestimate Bob Bradley from a results standpoint (and Bruce Arena for that matter)

    JK has to create a winner, this decision along with a host of others is just a reflection of his ‘stamp’ on the team.

    Win Games. point blank

  34. JK had, literally, nothing to do with the concept or implementation of the USSDA. It was conceived and implemented long before he arrived here.

    And, for the record, you greatly underestimate the things that Bob Bradley did here. To date, Klinsmann hasn’t come close to approaching the level of success in the US that Bradley did.

  35. I have always liked and supported Jozy, and that hasn’t changed. But the fact is he hasn’t played well for the national team in quite some time. And it isn’t about not scoring goals because he hasn’t had service; other strikers (Gomez, Dempsey, Boyd in stretches) have played well recently. For whatever reason, and I won’t speculate, Jozy has played poorly for the US lately. For that reason, I don’t think it’s such a big deal that he hasn’t been called up.

    I don’t agree with JK, mind you. Jozy is our most talented pure striker, and should be in every camp if he is healthy. But even if he was called in, he’d most likely be a sub playing garbage minutes. It’s not as big of a snub as it appears to be.


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