May 24, 2012, 2:45 PM EDT
If 2011-2012 was the club breakout of Jozy Altidore, then call the coming 12 months his explosion on the international stage. The young striker — he’s still only 22 — is ready to dominate United States national team opponents during World Cup qualifying and beyond.
It’s been a journey for the former New York Red Bull. Altidore always had the physical talents, but struggled with the positional aspects of the game. He’s learning, saying as much to FIFA: “I’m a lot more mature today and that’s crucial in terms of better understanding and reading the game.”
He’s finally comfortable in a club situation and finding playing time with AZ. Altidore rewarded the Dutch club’s faith with 15 goals. (Ernie Stewart is the technical director.)
Now, it’s time to bring that success to the Stars and Stripes. We saw glimpses during the Gold Cup and against Italy of Altidore’s improved hold-up play, decision-making, and movement. He will continue to thrive under Jurgen Klinsmann.
“He’s giving us a different approach. It’s new for all of us, but he’s positive all the time and that’s important for the squad. His training sessions are very different from what we’ve known before. They’re more intense as well. We’re now doing two sessions a day during our get-togethers,” Altidore told FIFA.
One note did stick out: “I’m lucky enough to have had great coaches to help me improve, like Manuel Pellegrini and Bruce Arena. I’ve been able to take advantage of each season to learn and heed the lessons, but it was when I finally had the chance to play that I was able to express myself.”
Arena? That’s an… interesting choice.
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