Photo by Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Jozy Altidore’s recent troubles have been highly publicized, but for a moment on Tuesday it all seemed to be forgotten.
Altidore scored his latest U.S. Men’s National Team goal and first since before the World Cup in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium. The 24-year-old forward netted the game’s opener in the 10th minute, bringing down a ball over the top from Michael Bradley and firing a shot into the back of the net.
Altidore, who has struggled to find the field with Premiership club Sunderland during the last few weeks, was visibly pumped during his celebration. His U.S. teammates huddled around him, knowing that the finish was a special if not necessary one for the hometown hero.
“I played a lot of tournaments here at the front fields at FAU (as a kid), so it’s kind of surreal to be back here,” Altidore said. “I never though I’d play a professional game with the national team here in front of so many people who helped me get to this point.”
Altidore is now tasked with leaving the familiarity of Boca Raton, Florida, where he spent a majority of his youth, to head back to the trials and tribulations of life in England. Despite having made just four appearances with Sunderland this season, Altidore once again reiterated the message that he is prepared to continue to fight for his place.
“(I’m going to do the) same thing I’ve always been doing: just keep plugging away, trying to take my chances when they come,” Altidore said. “It’s not easy, obviously, but it is what it is with the situation I’m in and I have nothing negative to say about anybody at Sunderland.
“I like being there. I like the fans. I enjoy the coach. I have a lot of good friends there, so it’s just about making it work.”
One person who believes Altidore can make it work is U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has been quick to come to his striker’s defense throughout the season. Klinsmann believes that Tuesday’s finish could be just the spark to to give Altidore’s season the boost it needs.
“That’s the best medicine you can get as a striker: scoring goals,” Klinsmann said. “I hoped he would have had another one to kind of finish the game off, but he didn’t really have any more chances.
“Having him back scoring is huge for his confidence. It’s good for us as well, obviously, and hopefully he takes that energy with him back to the Premier League and gets a couple of goals there as well. You’re always pleased for a striker when he scores.”
Goal or no goal, Altidore insists that his style of play won’t change. Regardless of his current form, the Sunderland forward is prepared to give his all every game in an effort to send a message for both club and country.
“It’s not about the goals,” Altidore said. “It’s about the way you approach the game, the way you play, the message you send to the other players, to everybody coming in. You care. You give everything on the field.
“Everybody is at different points at their clubs, wherever that may be, but when you step on the field and have the opportunity to play, you just try and give everything.”