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Reactions and overreactions to l’affair Altidore; why Jurgen Klinsmann’s choice isn’t that shocking

Oct 9, 2012, 10:50 AM EDT

Altidore 5

The shock registered throughout our domestic soccer community over l’affair Altidore is, well, almost a little shocking.

Jozy Altidore’s omission from Monday’s national team announcement was certainly a surprise. Paired with Eddie Johnson’s restoration of national team grace, all this is certainly a curveball that deserves discussion, if only because it smacks of sending mixed messages. But it’s not that exactly staggering, now is it?

First, I’ve said on more than one occasion (having “borrowed” the line from friend and fellow soccer journo Brian Straus), “I am done trying to predict Jurgen Klinsmann.”

And I mean it. Klinsmann has always marched to his own quirky drumbeat, going back to his playing days. We always knew this about the guy; his penchant for less conventional thinking is among the reasons everyone wanted him in this position all along, and it played no small part in U.S. Soccer’s enduring pursuit. It’s part of the Klinsi charm, right?

So, using that as a starting point, shouldn’t any thunderbolts coming out of his Home Depot Center office strike with just a little less bang?

I certainly expected to see Altidore’s name on the roster. He’s Dutch league’s leading scorer, after all. The Eredivisie isn’t exactly La Liga, but top tier Dutch soccer would land solidly in the middle of any European league ordering.

So, yes, Monday’s news registered as an “eye-opener.”

But all this? Reading comments across the answer web, some fans seemed utterly incredulous. A few media outlets used the words like “shocker” and wondered about Klinsmann’s motives.

And the word “snub” popped up with frequency, which seems to imply something personal. Frankly, I don’t get that at all. Coaches select squads and lineups based on a sliding scale of ability, experience, locker room chemistry, roster balance and positional cover. That’s about it. If they get it wrong, they get fired – so they work hard to get it right.

This is no more a “snub” in the conventional vernacular than Sacha Kljestan’s lack of call-ups in 2012 (before Monday, of course.) Klinsmann just reckons he’s got better people for a particular job.

There were little hints along the way; Klinsmann always sounded less than impressed last summer with Altidore’s fitness and commitment. He may not have said so overtly, but listening to Klinsmann talk up guys like Herculez Gomez and Terrance Boyd did serve to raise some antennae.

The boys from ESPN Press Pass weren’t shocked over Monday’s big talker; Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop called it a little surprising and hoped that it would spur something more from Altidore.


If we removed the name and just examined the numbers, this wouldn’t even register much above “mildly surprising.”  Altidore has no goals and one assist in six appearances this year. We would all look at that, mutter something about “he has to do better,” and then go make a sandwich.

It’s that form in the Netherlands and the lack of selection criteria consistency that does make this one harder to swallow; that much is clear. On the other hand, coaches do this occasionally, hoping a kick up the old backside will unlock better focus, more effort in training, closer attention to game-day details or whatever. (Not saying Altidore is necessarily deficient in any of those areas, just speaking generally here.)

After all, this could quickly blow over. Altidore could get back into the squad, and the guy could be scoring goals regularly in final round World Cup qualifying – assuming things don’t go horribly sideways over the next eight days.

“The decision is just for these two games,” Klinsmann said. “The door is always open.”


  1. dfstell - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    I tend to agree. If we fail to score in the two upcoming qualifiers or only get one goal at A&B, we maybe don’t qualify for the hex and Klinsman get’s fired. So, he’s basically betting his job on this decision.

    Plus…..the guy hasn’t shown much on the national team anyway. He’s shown in the past that he responds to getting kicked the pants by a coach. So, what better time for Klinsman to do this? Should he have waited until we’re in the hex? We should be able to advance without him.

  2. wfjackson3 - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Can we have a little dialogue about the long term plans that Klinzi seems to favor. I hate watching Beckerman play, but I think JK keeps calling him up because he is trying to add another dimension to his game. I get the feeling that the USMNT staff is trying to push players to add additional skills to increase our chances of winning games against the variety of styles and players we will see in the WC. Furthermore, it is my opinion that teams full of adaptable and multi-talented players are the ones that impose their will and often dictate the style of play.

    In that light, Altidore might not be meeting the staff expectations for developing himself, and they are looking for other players that can have that kind of success. Thoughts?

    PS – I love this site because it has informed and intelligent discussion. It is great to read an article, scroll to the comments, and NOT see a massive flame war going on.

    • boscoesworld - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      I think the Beckerman experiment is related to Michael Bradley being unavailable over different times last year. With the game Danny Williams had last month I don’t see Kyle seeing the field again too much. DW is everything advertised and more.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      Well, I’ve said before that with Beckerman it’s really quite simple: He does what Klinsmann asks. He’s not a game-changing figure, and his lack of speed bites occasionally, but by and large the guy does what Klinsmann ask positionally and in terms of moving the ball quickly.

  3. arjanroghanchi - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    people need to stop tripping out. I don’t think anyone outside of Tim Howard should ever be considered a lock for a call up.

    For insight into this decision, look at the case of Miroslav Klose.

    at one point he was warming the bench at Bayern Munich (before the move to Lazio), but was still an automatic call up and starter for Die Mannschaft. Why? Because he was a proven producer for the national side, and a hard worker. Both things that Jozy is not (and in my opinion never will be).

  4. footballer4ever - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    @ wfjackson3
    “PS – I love this site because it has informed and intelligent discussion. It is great to read an article, scroll to the comments, and NOT see a massive flame war going on.”

    Welcome to our football, aka soccer, blog which is pretty much a cool, level headed, informative, insightful and which most readers tend to add value and not decrease it as it’s done in other “neighboring” blogs who dwell on drama and where attention seekers are the normal.

    Look forward reading to your own comments.

  5. boscoesworld - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    “He isn’t a polished No. 9 just yet, but he boasts enough of those qualities to justify his selection. He regularly bowls over and through CONCACAF-caliber defenders when he conjures up the right attitude and the right performance in a US shirt.”

    Sorry I didn’t c and p the author but this pretty much sums it up and it is from a Jozy fan/author. The “isn’t a polished No. 9 just yet” Think about that. This guy has been a pro for almost a decade. When WILL he be “polished”? “When he conjures up the right attitude and the right performance”. Again why would this professional soccer player need any more motivation than getting a call up to the national squad? Jozy needs to take a deep look inside and get his priorities right.

    • teamperkins11 - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      Jozy has only been playing professionally since 2006. That does not make a full decade, closer to half. He is still only 22 years old and has been progressing nicely at the club level. His form on the national team had not matched his form at the club level, it is as simple as that. Maybe this will serve as a wake-up call for Jozy, as if losing minutes to Gomez, Boyd and company shouldn’t have been wake-up enough. While it does raise an eyebrow that he didn’t make the roster, it is hardly the greatest shock since he was only a sub in recent appearances. Those who are freaking out about what will happen if we need a goal late should realize that we have goal scorers in camp that, based on history, have performed better than Jozy. All that said I look forward to seeing a focused and determined Jozy on the USMNT very soon.

  6. jaxfootballing - Oct 9, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    “PS – I love this site because it has informed and intelligent discussion. It is great to read an article, scroll to the comments, and NOT see a massive flame war going on.”

    Could not agree with you more wfjackson3. On that basis, I have decided to join the on-going discussions – this being my 1st post.

    Very nice observation about Klose being a prior Bayern bench warmer but still managing a regular national team call-up because of his proven qualities and consistent impact on a favorable outcome for his team’s chances.

    I believe that Jozy has the ability to take it to the next level for the national team and possibly exceed Klinsi and staff’s expectations – but it’s all up to Jozy. Totally agree that he need to take some soul-searching moments and get his head right. Only then will he be able to make the necessary effort and contributions that he does on a pretty regular basis with AZ.

    Bradley used to play favorites (which Jozy seemed to be one of a few) that did not seem to have a results driven methodology and Klinsi is not playing those games. Either produce in your role with a good, wholesome team 1st, winning attitude or risk being relegated to the bench or worse (not get the time of day) …..

    Eddie Johnson seemed to be a forerunner of where Jozy is now – Think about Adu also…..


  7. jaxfootballing - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Some interesting comments from Jozy himself…..He gets it – AZ and USMNT are two completely different setups with distinct coaching demands. Bottom Line is he now has to earn his way back into regular playing status with national team adapting to those around him and not vice versa….

  8. danielofthedale - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I think its the combo of leaving Jozy and Boyd off and bringing in Alan Gordon that has the natives restless. I have never thought Gordon was all that good, he is only the third best forward on San Jose. A guy like Kenny Copper would have been a pick since he has some big game, WCQ experience. If Herc or Clint can not go in the Guatemala game then Gordon is the only Forward option on the bench. If we are down a goal in the second half, do we want to put our WC hopes on his head? I know I do not.

    • mvktr2 - Oct 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      Experience or no I don’t feel much better about putting WCQ hopes on the head of Kenny Cooper. Fair point though, from a WCQ experience standpoint Cooper at least offers something to judge him by. In Gordon’s defense I’d call him the 2nd best forward on SJs team as his strike rate to minutes played I believe is higher than either Wondo or cabbage patch. Additionally of the 3 SJ Fs Wondo could never play a target F and cabbage patch could never play off forward while Gordon can play either and is thus a better fit for the 3rd slot.

      For the record I to enjoy this site, the level of articles, and the level of commentary also. I’m no soccer expert, didn’t grow up playing the game, but have done my best to educate myself. On that note does anyone care to describe Klinsman’s formational approach without a stringpuller/10/plate setter and I read someone describe Klinsmann’s approach as playing without wingers… an explaination I don’t understand as I’d describe Donovan & Shea as wingers though they do tuck in as often as not. Anyhoo I’ve spent the past few days ‘explaining’ the Altidor-gate move to some of our fellow USMNT fans. It’s pretty obvious from what anyone with a mild sports IQ sees both on the field and in the media. This is a message about what needs to be done. Same thing with Beckerman. He’s not great, never will be, but fits what the coach is looking for and aside from a couple of flubs against Jamaica has looked quite calm with the ball and competent in defense. I have no problem with him as a bench player/role player.

  9. schmutzdeck - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    I don’t get the hoopla. Actually I do but it is worth remembering what JK is doing to Jozy is just what Verbeek has been doing all along to him.

    And I think we all agree it seems to work.

    Some guys need a pat on the head and some guys need a kick in the butt. Good managers know what strategy to apply and when.

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