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Revisiting Jozy Altidore’s turbulent 2012 … and giving Jurgen Klinsmann credit

Jun 12, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

Italy US Soccer

Let’s have an exercise in honesty today. Two simple questions … and be honest!

Were you upset with U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann for leaving Jozy Altidore off the roster late last year?

And, are you willing to admit that Klinsmann was 100 percent right to do so?

How can anyone see it any other way now? You watched Altidore in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Panama, right? If the 23-year-old Alkmaar striker has played a better match in the U.S. shirt, someone will need to point that out for me.

Back to last October, when Klinsmann delivered a clear message by leaving Altidore off the U.S. roster ahead of two World Cup qualifiers. What I said all along: it was a calculated risk by a coach who had the bigger goal in mind. Klinsmann, after all, was not brought to qualify for a World Cup. He was hired nudge the United States off a plateau.

A huge part of his plan is finding ways to get the most from individuals – squeezing every last little drop of juice from the fruit. Klinsmann adjudged that Altidore had more to offer, and he correctly calculated that his team could manage the job last October without the Alkmaar high-scorer.

He wanted more from Altidore in the big picture. Klinsmann didn’t desire 90 percent of Altidore’s abilities last October, he wanted 100 percent of Altidore in Brazil next summer. That was the bigger picture.

(MORE: Klinsmann takes time last year to explain the Altidore decision)

If you saw Tuesday’s match, you saw a complete game from a young striker, one still trending up on the career performance curve. His technical work, positioning, awareness, astute use of the ball and general tenacity were exactly where they needed to be.

Here’s what Klinsmann said afterward about Altidore, who has scored in the last three U.S. matches:

He knows he has our full support in his development. Again, we have talked often about Jozy and often we forget how young he still is. You got to give him a bad game or a bad performance as well. But you also got to kick him in his backside when you think he needs it. It’s just normal.

“He’s playing a position I played my whole career for 18 years for big clubs so I know what’s going through his mind, I know when he struggles and what we demand from him is when you struggle just fight for your way back into the game and do your job for the team. How he is doing that in the last couple of games is absolutely outstanding.”

(MORE: Player ratings from U.S. win over Panama)

  1. mvktr2 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    No, I wasn’t upset at all. Klinsmann made it completely clear that it was about more than his scoring form at club level, that there were unrevealed concerns relative to work ethic on and off the pitch. Was he 100% correct to do it, absolutely.

    The question that really matters is, how’s this play out in the long run? Is this Jozy gonna stick around through WC2014 and beyond? I hope so because this is the Jozy that was worth a 10 mil transfer fee. Furthermore I hope Jozy stays in the dutch league and if he’s going to make a switch switches within the league jumping to bigger things after the 2014 WC.

    Additionally it’s made total sense when Jurgey has called in out of form Shea or reserve team star Boyd looking at them for the future because of their potential. It also makes total sense that he’s having Donovan earn his way back on the team, it’s important for long term team health and team chemistry. It’s a big picture approach that says we can beat Jamaica, Panama, & Honduras or get 7 pts at least without LD. Klinsmann and staff have had the long-view approach from the beginning and it’s the proper approach!

  2. korules - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    FYI, no one in The Netherlands calls AZ, Alkmaar.
    I don’t really care what you call them though… cause it’s AZ, lol.
    But no one calls them Alkmaar, like no one calls Feyenoord, Rotterdam; FC Twente, Enschede; PSV, Eindhoven.

  3. boscoesworld - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Spot on Steve!! I think, and I probably am in the minority that JK has been genius in the management of players. Donovan being case in point. Arguably the best player on the team has to prove himself just as Boyd or any other marginal player must do. That sends a great message to the squad. Things are looking up because of it. I am excited to see the very BEST 23 going to Brazil!

  4. gra42 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    I’m sorry, but he got two easy undefended, unpressured lay-ins off of superior service. Credit goes to the passer and the midfielder who drew the defenders out, turned them and laid the ball off on slide-rule passes to undefendable spots. I’m not saying that Jozy can’t be a threat as a target forward, but let’s be honest Steve: He didn’t really make those goals happen did he? Do you know many soccer players that would have flubbed those chances?

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