In the time since Jozy Altidore last appeared for the U.S. Men’s National Team, a few forwards have had the opportunity to claim the top spot on the depth chart.
By scoring five goals in his last four games for Toronto FC, Altidore has once again established himself as the top striker in the USMNT talent pool.
This isn’t a shocking revelation since the 29-year-old is the most accomplished forward of the players at Gregg Berhalter’s disposal.
Altidore was kept out of the first few camps of the Berhalter era because he was working his way back to full fitness after recovering from ankle surgery.
Now that he is in form, Altidore is forcing his way back into the USMNT conversation with the Concacaf Gold Cup two months away.
With 41 goals in 110 international appearances, Altidore carries more big-game experience than any combination of Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes, Andrija Novakovich. Josh Sargent and whoever else you want to throw on to the forward depth chart.
It would’ve been understandable if Altidore was healthy and left off the January and March rosters so Berhalter could evaluate the forward corps behind him, and that ended up happening anyway due to the Toronto FC forward’s injury.
In the March friendlies against Chile and Ecuador, Zardes was the only forward who stood out, and even he produced moments of quality in small spurts.
Jordan Morris couldn’t replicate his club form with the Seattle Sounders and Sargent was off with the U.S. Under-23 team in Spain.
Wood hasn’t scored since November in Germany and Novakovich is rounding into decent form with Fortuna Sittard with three goals in his last five games.
None of those players have produced enough to stake a claim to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Now with Altidore putting together a scoring run alongside Alejandro Pozuelo in the TFC attack, he has put everyone else behind him once again on the depth chart.
Although Altidore is one of the players still around from the disaster in Trinidad and Tobago, he is still the best forward option.
The goal for the USMNT is to win the Gold Cup.
It isn’t to be competitive and prove progress has been made with young players. That is what the first four games of the Berhalter era were for.
No one is going to shout praise from the rooftops if the USMNT loses to Mexico, Costa Rica or another top Concacaf nation in the knockout round of the Gold Cup.
Berhalter has to choose the best 23 players from his talent pool to conquer his major competition in charge.
Altidore should not only be the first forward written into the squad list, he should be one of the first overall players alongside Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Tyler Adams, Zack Steffen, John Brooks and Weston McKennie, if he is healthy.
Sure, one of the other forwards could catch fire over the next two months, but none of them have consistently proven they can score against quality opposition at the international level.
A healthy and in-form Altidore does nothing but benefit the USMNT moving forward.
That’s why he needs to be in Berhalter’s starting XI for the Gold Cup opener against Guyana on June 18.