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Poyet touches on Altidore’s debut season at Sunderland

Jozy Altidore of Sunderland

Photo by Matt West/


Jozy Altidore’s struggles at Sunderland are well-documented, but manager Gus Poyet is not really sure how to solve them.

Poyet was a guest on The Football Show on Tuesday and he briefly discussed Altidore’s underwhelming first season with the Black Cats. Poyet, however, was not able to pinpoint exactly why the 24-year-old striker only scored once in the Premiership campaign after proving he could light up defenses while with AZ Alkmaar and the U.S. Men’s National Team prior to the 2013-14 campaign.

“I think he feels more comfortable with the national team for whatever reason,” said Poyet. “I don’t know if it’s that when you feel that you are a main player. I don’t know if the pace of the game with the national team is different than in England. I don’t know but something is of course not working for us with Jozy.

“Every game he came on, he gave us a hand – at Stamford Bridge (in a 2-1 win vs. Chelsea) is an example. He was always trying his best. Unfortunately, the goals didn’t come up for him. But I am very relaxed because if you see the power he’s got, the physique, the shot – He can shoot. I can tell you that because I see him every day. It’s just that momentum, that click that is going to be for him so important.”

Sunderland managed to escape relegation late in the season, but that has led to many questions from observers about Altidore’s future at the club. Some believe he should transfer this summer in order to start fresh and get more playing time while others think he would be best served to fight it out and stay with the Black Cats.

Poyet, for his part, made no indication that Altidore is on his way out. In fact, the head coach said he is still fond of the veteran striker’s game.

“I’m quite relaxed with Jozy, to be honest. I’m one of the few,” said Poyet. “I know it’s difficult for a striker when he doesn’t score, but I like him, I like him. I like him as a boy and I like him as a player. He just couldn’t find the net. Sometimes it happens. You change clubs, and you cannot do it at one club for whatever reason.”


What do you make of Poyet’s comments? Should Altidore stay put or move elsewhere this summer? Why do you think he struggled to score at Sunderland?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Jozy scores with the U.S. because they are actually a halfway decent team. Not sure what to call Sunderland, but it would likely leave this post awaiting moderation forever.

  2. Jozy is a good player. Success in England is not easily achieved and Jozy just isn’t seasoned enough at this point. He’s got a killer shot but he isn’t clinical in front of goal. He puts out effort to boost his work rate, but he doesn’t do it smartly. He’s merely average in the air and in the hold up phase. He’s about 2 years from his prime which should last for a good 3 years after before he begins to decline and returns to MLS.

    • Well, Bradley couldn’t cut it in England either. No one doubts his skill set. Maybe, success with one team versus another is not the best measure of a player’s overall skill set.

      • Nate,

        “Well, Bradley couldn’t cut it in England either. “

        Actually, he never really had a chance.

        He was caught in the middle of a transition problem in the Villa management . Houllier the man who brought him in on loan, promptly had a heart attack and was replaced by a caretaker manager Gary McCalister. He just maintained status quo. Eventually, they brought in a new manager, Alex McLeish, who did not know Mikey from Adam. In all the turmoil he could only get appearances 3 league games and 1 cup game.

        Maybe Mikey was not good enough for the EPL but he was not exactly given much of a chance to make his case one way or another.

  3. Being a Altidore fan, I watched quite a bit of him at Sunderland. it was really noticeable how hard it seemed for Jozy to get the ball early on during the Di Canio reign, there were a couple missed chances that didn’t help, and then it seemed like the mood was set for the whole campaign.

    Altidore at times seems to not make a “bright” run to space that would trigger a teammate’s automatic instinct to play the ball to him, but in fairness I think he improved his movement and understanding with his teammates during the season.

    One big criticism before this year was work rate, and Altidore made a big improvement in that area.

  4. hey Ives, where the SBI episode at?! you guys said we would have one waiting for us on Wednesday! i need my fix man!

  5. I think playing with another striker may benefit Jozy. Assuming Borini goes back to Liverpool, I’d like to see him on the field paired with Wickham.

  6. I have the same questions.

    If you watched the espn special last night, according to Klinsman’s own words, absolutely no one has a guaranteed ticket to Brazil or starting spot on the USMNT. The Stanford camp is the final proving ground.

    Having said that it seems like Jozy sure gets a lot of preferential treatment. He hasn’t scored hardly at all in the EPL and yet he’s considered a lock. EJ was on fire last year in MLS and helped secure US qualification with big time goals and had an amazing goal called back against Mexico in the last friendly and he doesn’t even make the 30 prelim roster??

    • He gets preferential treatment because he’s the best striker in the pool. The “no one is guaranteed a spot” stuff is just coachspeak. You really think there’s any chance that MB or Howard or Clint are going to be left home, barring injury? I do think Landon is going to be left off though because JK pretty clearly has a grudge against him.

      • JK doesn’t hold a personal grudge against LD. He’s just treating him like a pro. LD has been US soccer’s golden boy for so long, seeing him treated differently suddenly makes people uncomfortable.

  7. How long has this guy been around soccer, 2 months ?

    He can’t figure out why Jose scores with Dempsey and Bradley, but not his team ?

  8. if he doesn’t move, this is at least encouraging words from the manager. he alluded to Jozy being a good finisher and having a rocket of a shot. same thing that the announcers were saying about him in his last game. that he was finishing everything in practice but just not happening for him on the field.

    of course, then he missed a sitter almost right after that…lol although it would have been ruled offside (incorrectly) anyway.

  9. If they never called off Jozy’s goal vs Arsenal (begin of the season): Jozy would took off. but not scoring and in crappy club plaque Jozy’s mentality and lost calmness to score.

  10. I still think Jozy moves somewhere else this summer and a good world cup can certainly help in that regard.

    • Yup….. good showing at WC and I think he’s likely gone. That said, add a few midfielders/players of Poyet’s choosing and time to truly put his fingerprints on the team and things could suddenly look quite different there. There is something to be said of staying put/toughing out/making a tough situation right than… another year, another team, trying to adapt all over again. Poyet has been very patient and treated JA with respect.

    • Right now his value is way below what Sunderland paid for him. He’d have to murder someone with a strike from fifty yards in order to regain that value.

      Strange things happen at the World Cup, though.

  11. Jozy was on “Nacion Espn” yesterday which is on EspnDeportes. It’s basically Sports Nation but for the spanish speaking audience. I was very surprised to see he speaks fluent spanish! He speaks it very well; a little better than Landon Donovan does. Big ups to Jozy. He was there with Valderama (Colombian National team legend). He looked confident. Hopefully he leaves his Sunderland issues on the other side of the pond and plays grear in Brazil.

  12. I assume Gus Poyet’s first language is not English, that he learned English in Uruguay and further developed his understanding in the U.K., and that he most likely meant “boy” as a synonym for “lad.” Still, though I’m certain it was an innocent expression, it’s kinda jarring to hear Altidore referred to as “a boy.” Sunderland’s PR staff might wanna bring Poyet up to date on how that phrase is perceived in the U.S.

    • LoL. Non-issue. It’s absolutely a standard manner of fondly referring to someone in the UK and JA is easily intelligent enough to know that. His very mature, grounded way of handling a racist “incident” during a match last year while w/ AZ and interviews following the game I think point to this.

    • Jermaine Jones has frequently spoken about how he can’t wait to get back with his boys, the USMNT.

      He refers to them as the boys.

  13. So what is the situation going forward? Is he starting against Ghana no matter what or does he have to score and show something in the up coming friendlies? If he were to be benched whats the depth chart? Is it Boyd because of the hold play he offers or do change around a formation for Johannsson or Wondo? Will be an interesting month for sure.

    • I have the same questions.

      If you watched the espn special last night, according to Klinsman’s own words, absolutely no one has a guaranteed ticket to Brazil or starting spot on the USMNT. The Stanford camp is the final proving ground.

      Having said that it seems like Jozy sure gets a lot of preferential treatment. He hasn’t scored hardly at all in the EPL and yet he’s considered a lock. EJ was on fire last year in MLS and helped secure US qualification with big time goals and had an amazing goal called back against Mexico in the last friendly and he doesn’t even make the 30 prelim roster??

      • mark, yes EJ was on fire last year in the MLS and helped the US in qualification but Jozy did the exact same (yet better on both occasions): Jozy had a monster (relative) season for AZ last year and helped the US (with more goals than EJ) in qualification.

        while i agree, not calling in EJ was the wrong move, i think Jozy is a lock because of his talent and production over the past couple of years. your points for EJ above are both trumped by Jozy yet you’re confused why he’s a lock and EJ didnt make it? there’s no logic there.

      • I love EJ but I think Jozy’s struggles doomed EJ.

        Based on the latest results:

        Jozy is out of form
        EJ is out of form
        AJ is out of form
        Wondo is okay
        Dempsey is in form
        Donovan is rounding (pun intended) into form
        Boyd is smoking red hot.

        Of that list only EJ and Boyd can replace Jozy directly and with Jozy struggling, I can’t see JK being able to risk bringing in two out of form guys (Jozy and EJ) for that spot.

        JK was faced with cutting either Jozy or EJ. And I would have done what he did but I would not have liked it.

      • i would “prefer” to play a 24 year old who is number 6 all time in goals scored in a US uniform. Wouldnt you?

    • Unless he is injured, Jozy is starting against Ghana. I think the question is what formation will we play against their stacked midfield. Are we going to go with 1 up top, or a 4-4-2?

  14. I’m looking forward to getting this storyline in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. Hopefully we see Jozy pick back up where he left in qualifying and we can stop talking about Sunderland.. in the end what we really care about is what’s about to happen… man it can’t get here fast enough.

  15. Funny how just last year we were all talking about why does he score so much for his club and not for the national team. Now its just the opposite.

  16. Why do you call him a “veteran” striker? Sure, he’s not a kid anymore but he’s also not at his prime yet. Saying a veteran had a rough year is saying he’s washed up. That’s certainly not jozy’s case. He’s got the tools but sunderland was struggling, and i think he put too much pressure on himself. He needs to hit the reset button and the world cup could help him do that. I think jozy will have a solid career.

  17. Look, I think he’s better than he showed too, but you can’t argue about the fact that Sunderland was generally a better team when he wasn’t playing. Borini and Johnson each had 10 goals with the same poor service. Conner Wickam (!) had seven. Yes, Jozy did great in a league where they “play no defense” according to Aaron Johannson, but he has to learn how to play against stauncher competition. It’s not just about getting service…it’s learning where the best places to be are to receive it.

    • Well said. Jozy has to learn how to find his own chances and not rely on his midfield doing all the work and all he has to do is put a foot on it and reap the benefits. Jozy had a big team mentality on a small team.

    • borini (up until the end of the season) and johnson don’t play striker. the reason they were getting goals is because the team was set up to create chances for their wingers and mids. which also explains why jozy was one of the team leaders in assists.

      it wasn’t until the end of the season that poyet decided to change the system and play more directly (and also start giving giaccherini game-time). unfortunately (for jozy, at least), this change also coincided with wickham’s return.

      in any case, i hope wickham’s success means jozy finds a new team. i’ve now watched more sunderland games than any person deserves.

      • Urg, I feel like I watched at least 5 games where not one player even attempted a through ball. They don’t have anyone who can even pretend to be a creative mid but all their wingers like to cut in. This crowded the middle in a team with no ability to play short passes or through balls behind the line.

        I have no idea what happened the last 5 games. I had stopped watching by that point.

      • @nate the whole season minus the last sets of games he played in they did better than without him.

      • do you have numbers to back that up?

        honest question, because while i think they mostly looked better with jozy on the field, they were consistently, by and large, so horrible that “better” seems like it would have to be an infinitesimal improvement.

    • That is simply not true. I can see why you would say that if you only started paying attention after Wickham started scoring, but statistically, Sunderland were more likely to win, when you look at the entire season, when Jozy was on the field.

      Borini had 10 goals? Half were penalties. The fact that you didnt acknowledge that undercuts your credibility.

  18. Poyet is a moron if he can’t understand why Jozy was not scoring. If he can’t see that the service from the midfield was so utterly abysmal, they should sack his *ss in the summer.

    • Um, he saved the team from relegation with players he didn’t buy and a terrible midfield. He should not be fired at all. Jozy had trouble because of the midfield, but also from missing the chances he did get — some were sitters too.

    • Yeah, fire the manager that saved the team from seemingly certain relegation. He benched a non-producing striker and brought on one who scored goals – WHAT AN IDIOT!

      • And my comment is being moderated. For the record, I was sarcastically calling Poyet an idiot, not insulting MiamiAl.

  19. Sounds like he’ll give him another shot, but he’s on a short leash.
    That is unless after the world cup there are suitors.. then he’ll probably be shipped out.

    I completely agree about lack of service etc.. but he still should have had 5-7 goals this year given the opportunities he did get.

    • Exactly. He had opportunities. Not as many as he did in the weaker Dutch league, but he had as many opps as his fellow strikers, moreso in the case of Wickham, yet he was found wanting.

      For AZ, he was given loads of chances every game, but even playing for a top club, you just don’t get that. You have to learn to carve out your own chances. Whether that’s being greedy and taking a wild shot or hustling to find space or chasing down a defender.

      At the end of the day, his confidence left him. Let’s hope Klinsi helps him find it.

      • Yes, elite strikers can create their own chances – but how many of those exist?
        95% of strikers in the world are dependent on good service from the midfield. We all know Jozy didn’t get much service, that plus the fact he isn’t the most clinical or technical of players, added up to a terrible season.
        His confidence is undoubtedly low, but hopefully in the Send-Off Series some good peformences will get him on the right track.

      • Excellent, ask felix if he has her number, it would be nice to talk to her. Its been a long six years since i heard her voice

      • I really think the excellent goal he had against Arsenal (to tie) that was then called back (incorrectly) was the turning point for a poor season for him. He was giving it his all while the team was at their nadir of form, and it still wasn’t enough.

        That’s not an excuse to go the next 2/3 of a season without scoring, but I think it was the point of no return.

      • You clearly did not watch many Sunderland games. Which “fellow strikers” are you referring to? Borini? Borini scored half his goals on penalties. Johnson? Hes a midfielder. Who was setting up chances for Sunderland strikers? Look at the stats and its clear, Sunderland did not create many chances FOR ANYONE, especially from the run of play. Look at the assist totals for Man City. They won the league because they played as a team and set up chances for each other by delivering the ball to dangerous areas of the field.

        you then go on to say that Jozy “was given chances” in the weaker Dutch league. Isnt that the point? To set up other players to score? You act like Jozy’s record amount of goals for an American in Europe was the result of some kind of “charity.”

        On the one hand, you credit Wickham for finishing chances created for him, then you criticize Altidore for doing the same thing but in a different league…what are you trying to say? That Jozy cant score for the Nats because he didnt score for Sunderland?

  20. Agreed! Instead of launching shots from 30 yards out like Larson. Maybe if they had Henrik Larson during his prime, Jozy would have scored eight goals.

  21. Earth to Gus: Perhaps Jozy would score if your midfield could provide some service, last few matches of the campaign notwithstanding.

    • Agreed! Instead of launching shots from 30 yards out like Larson. Maybe if they had Henrik Larson during his prime, Jozy would have scored eight goals.

      • Larson and Bardsley were a huge part of the issue in my opinion. Jozy had a large share of the blame too. He did miss several opportunities.

        Larson hits descent crosses in the air, that isn’t Jozy’s strength. He is much better with the ball at his feet. Giaccarini and Jozy are really good paring. Unfortunately they didn’t get on the field together much.

      • yea Giacc and Jozy both play together very well yet poyet RARELY had them on the field together. jozy would start then poyet would bring on giac and sub off jozy, every game i was screaming at the TV to just keep them both on the field. half of wickham’s goals were due to giac’s work. i really hope to see giac in the starting lineup next season with a rotation of jozy, borini and wickham all taking turns in a 2 striker form

      • This. Giaccherini-Altidore should have been the new Maher-Altidore. I wondered why this wasn’t talked about more.

        It could have been worse for Jozy. Sunderland’s crap form took Giacc from Juventus and Italy starter to WC snub.

    • Um not entirely true.

      I love Jozy, and think he can thrive at the right EPL club like Everton. But Wickham was able to score quite a bit in the same system.

      • “Wickham was able to score quite a bit in the same system.”

        no, he wasn’t. if i recall correctly, he didn’t score for sunderland before he was sent down to the championship last november, and then he wasn’t recalled until poyet changed up his system (from a 4-5-1 to a 3-5-2). *then* he started scoring.

      • Look at the goals Wickham scored

        1 – back post run off nice Giacarini pass
        2 – good finish, Joe Hart gave him the full near post
        3 – tap in after goalie fumbled a shot
        4 – corner kick header over defender
        5 – corner kick header

        only #2 was really up to Wickham. The rest was good service.

      • I think Jozy scores #1 and #3. #2 he is capable of but not in his current form. The aerial game is Jozy’s forte. I doubt he scores either 4 or 5.

      • I agree with you. It’s about the pace of the play and the type of opportunities the team creates. Sunderland like to slow the game down, so a player like Wickham, who isn’t as mobile as Jozy, is more effective because he’s good in the air and he’s a poacher. Jozy is pretty physical but he is more on the move. Everton play quicker down the flanks and through the gaps. Jozy would be good on a team like that.

    • +1; I hope Poyet is smart enough to recognize his wingers are selfish and/or strong points aren’t passing. If he doesn’t recognize that about Borini or Johnson then he doesn’t need to be coaching in the EPL.

    • Magic Mike,

      Given the competition in the EPL and the lack of service, especially when compared to AZ and the US, I would have expected Jozy to score less than he did in Holland and for the US but not THAT much less.

      Johnson and Borini both had 10 goals across all competitions and were joint overall scoring leaders. Based on what I saw, Jozy, with the service he did get, had a good shot at scoring 5-6 goals across all competitions over the season, but he did not do that.

      Goal scoring is a streaky thing; the more you score, the more you likely you are to score again. Scoring goals is primarily a reflex. When you are not scoring, instead of reacting you start thinking, and then the moment is lost.

      From what I saw Jozy was in that sort of rut all season long. Poyet would play him in cup games to get him going but Jozy did not score there either.

      If he stays at Sunderland, in theory, he should do better next season because:

      1. He should be better adjusted to the EPL and Sunderland’s culture.
      2. The coaching staff will theoretically have figured out a better way to utilize him.

      It could go either way.

      Jozy did not join a team. He joined a bunch of guys who DiCanio had bought and spent his time trying to mold into a unit. Poyet’s accomplishment was he managed to mold that unit into enough of a team to avoid relegation. But for most of the year the team was a cluster. If you remember Jozy’s time at Hull, it was the same thing, a wack job manager and a circus atmosphere.

      In theory by next year everything should be more established and go easier for the survivors from this year’s team. AZ was a very structured environment; his manager there was very structured and disciplined. It seems like everyone knew what they were supposed to do.

      Jozy is an American athlete, which is to say he is a team first guy and it seems when the team is unsettled he is unsettled.

      The best thing for him would be to score a hat trick in each of the games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

      • i agree. points out jozy is partially at fault, but doesnt stray into hyperbole stating that jozy is the worst striker ever…. etc….. Points out the problems within the club that added to poor season (coaching, new players, etc). points out the possible ways for next season to be better.

        well said GW

      • Well articulated, GW. In spite of having a very credible academy, Sunderland’s first team really is the Island of Misfit Toys, assembled over the years by handful of mostly-departed individuals who did not seem to have much of a vision for how they actually wanted the team to play.

        Supposedly Poyet is only 50/50 to stay — as ownership seems unconvinced by his transfer acumen. Perhaps they got word that Roy Keane is speeding across northern England in a cargo van with a fresh load of Man United rejects.

    • I kind of think Jozy’s size is a disadvantage when it comes to expectations. I think people expect him to be a Drogba style force out there and that’s just not Jozy. His hold-up play has progressed a lot though and I guess his size is big factor there.

      Kind of reminds me of how some people saw Peter Crouch and said “good lord, he’ll get you ten headers a week” with no consideration about how much impact a poor crossing team has on his ability to succeed. On a much lesser scale there was Nate Jaqua, a tall player that everyone expected to just naturally get every cross that came his way despite the fact that the cross still has to be a good one before his extra height makes any difference. Poor Jaqua was probably thanking God when he heard Beckham was coming to his team… only for Jaqua to then be traded away before Becks arrived!

      • Excellent post. Jozy is being asked to be a target man by everybody… Just because he hasn’t really shown that he “is”, doesn’t make him a poor striker. He is absolutely excellent when given support.

        Also, huge marks for the Jaqua reference.

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