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What Jozy Altidore can learn from Fernando Torres

Jun 20, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT


Jozy Altidore and Fernando Torres are essentially two peas from the same striker pod.

Both are physical specimens who are highly scrutinized, criticized and (at times) undervalued by the footballing world. But perhaps the closest bond that the two players enjoy is that they are both highly instinctual strikers. And because of this trait, Jozy – six years Fernando’s minor – can learn a lot from the Spanish marksman.

Torres rose to prominance at his childhood club, Atletico Madrid, where he made his debut at age 17 before earning the captain’s armband two years later. He scored double-digit goals every season at Atleti but it was not until he arrived at Liverpool that he truly exploded.

In his first season at Anfield, Torres utilized his blazing speed, power and finishing ability to net 24 league goals and 31 in all competitions. It seemed everytime Torres touched the ball, he scored. The majority of his goals came in one of two ways. Either he would find a seam, burst through it, and strike the entry pass first time or he would drift wide, collect the ball, take a quick touch inside and release a rocket into the top corner.

The one constant was that most goals Torres scored were on pure impulse, as if his mind could not catch up with his body.

It was not until he moved to Chelsea in January 2011 that the combination of niggly injuries and a 50M weight on his shoulders slowed him down, forcing him to over-think exactly what he was doing. The rest is history – Torres fell headfirst into a scoring abyss scoring a mere 15 goals in 82 Premier League competitions since arriving at Stamford Bridge.

And while many will site Torres’ loss of confidence as a major reason for his drought, that only happened when he let thought overtake instinct.

Two weeks ago, all the rage in the U.S. was over the scoring drought of Jozy Altidore for not having scored a national team goal from open play in nearly two years.

Was Jozy’s slump as pronounced as Torres’?

No. After all, he did manage a haul of 23 goals in 21 Eredivisie matches with AZ this season. The situation was nevertheless disconcerting, both for the striker and the American soccer fans.

The problem for Jozy was one of circumstances. As the U.S.’s only pure striker the true scoring onus fell squarely on the New Jersey native’s shoulders. Sure, Clint Dempsey would be there to help score goals. But at the end of the day, Jozy was well aware that it was the striker – not the attacking midfielder or second striker or winger or however one wishes to classify Deuce’s position – that consistently needed to make the score sheet.

So, he overcompensated. Rather than chasing down defenders and getting into the box to finish crosses, Jozy tried to do too much and dropped deep looking to get the ball on his foot. He tried to create when – no offense to Altidore – he is not a creator.

He is a finisher. A one-touch, no-nonsense finisher.

This was the skill that, like Torres, helped Jozy rise to prominence at the New York Red Bulls. This was the skill that earned him a transfer out of a terrible situation at Villareal and into a brilliant one at AZ. And this was the skill that, at AZ, had resulted in the lion’s share of his 38 league goals over two seasons.

So two weeks ago, with the drought hanging over his head, it was all on the line for Jozy. After a dreadful friendly match against Belgium where he was subbed out at half-time, he needed to rediscover himself if the U.S. was to achieve their dreams of making it to Brazil 2014.

And rediscover himself, he did, scoring four goals in four matches — all of which were one-time, instinctual finishes.

When Jozy works hard off the ball and gets himself into the box, this is the kind of danger he possesses. The same danger that Fernando Torres once used to terrorize opponents on the Kop. And the kind of danger that will give opposing defenders nightmares in Brazil.

  1. jucam1 - Jun 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Is there a more overrated player in the world than Altadore?… If this guy played for a good football nation he wouldn’t even make the squad, but since he plays for a country with a powerful media infrastructure and a team that gets to beat up on awful little teams in the qualifying stages, he gets a ton of press…. He is a fad player holding down the fort till the next Landon Donovan comes along… (And Donovan was way overrated too, but at least he could hang in with real global competion)

    • joeyt360 - Jun 20, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      Q: Is there a more overrated player in the world than Altadore?
      A: Ferndando Torres

      Media infrastructure? Don’t make me laugh, Torres will get more articles (and more money) to NOT score in one season than Altidore will get in his lifetime.

    • mikeevergreen - Jun 22, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      Got any more “Famous Last Words” type comments, dude?

  2. lyleoross - Jun 20, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Disagree. Donovan is pretty awful, so is Jozy, or at least he has been. However, the last year has shown some promise. Up until a year ago, Jozy was a Mac truck. No real foot skills, just big, and great if he was going straight forward with a straight in shot. In other words, pathetic. But some of the touches and movement he’s made on the ball in the last year looked good. The problem is that he’s not matching those touches against a top level defense. We will see that either next season, or at the WC. At that time it will be possible to asses where he really is.

  3. joeyt360 - Jun 20, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    The barkalounger is strong with these two.

  4. mkbryant3 - Jun 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    I guess we all have our own definitions of “awful”.

    More overrated than Donovan and Altidore? Downing. Nani. Anderson. Carroll. Denilson (in his day). Diskerud (in the US soccer geekdom), Gervinho. Just off the top of my head.

  5. jucam1 - Jun 21, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    Altadore wishes he was or ever had the talent that Torres or Nani had, at least those guys did enough against real competition to get themselves paid by global power clubs, Altador is an ok player in a weak dutch league that wouldn’t be on the bench for good footie nations…. I’m not insulting him out of spite, i’m just commenting on the truth of the matter, he is massively overrated….
    It’s maybe not his fault, he tends to shine against “power house” teams like Panama and Honduras, so the media highlights his fitness…. However, if he were to play against real competition in Europe or South America, we would all come to the conclusion that he is just not q good player

  6. dfstell - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I agree with the premise of the article.

    As for some of the comments….geez guys. I don’t understand this segment of fandom that seems to hate on any player who is guilty of being big and athletic. It’s like they would enjoy Jozy more if he were 5’2″ and made all these mincing little deft touches because that is “skill’ and “technique”. It’s like somehow size and power are unearned attributes.

    You know what? It’s a attribute to be a big man with the endurance to run, push, jump, etc. for a full 90 minutes. Those muscles need O2 and the amount of fitness work that a big man like Jozy has to do to oxygenate that body is WAY more than the fitness work that smaller players have to do. I’m not saying that makes Jozy better…’s just different. He’s a big man. He is probably physically unable to do the things that 130 pound men can do. But, 130 pound men also can’t do the things that Jozy can do.

    As a defender, being matched up against a guy who is quicker and stronger than you is an eff-ing nightmare. You get your positioning wrong for one second and there is a chance of a goal being scored. Sometimes you get your positioning right and they can still collect the ball and score. It’s really demoralizing.

    • lyleoross - Jun 21, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      There is nothing wrong with being big and athletic, there is something wrong with being big and unidirectional. go back and look at video of Jozy from the last world cup. Any play that required horizontal movement pretty much was a bust for him. If you laid the ball in front of him, once he was up to speed, he could get a monster shot off from almost any distance. That was pretty much all he could do.

      It doesn’t much matter if he can push a smaller defender off the ball if he can’t keep the ball. That said, he has shown some promise this year. He is playing a more subtle game, both North South, and East West. As I wrote above, the proof is in the pudding. I want to see him against the best defenses in the world. Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras are not anywhere close.

      BTW pointing out that Jozy is physically fit doesn’t impress me, that’s the base definition of what any player has to be to compete in the sport, no matter what their size. It’s irrelevant. The question is, can he create opportunities, and capitalize on the ones given him? The answer is, yes, but against what is considered to be mid-level talent. Even the German second team, as good as they are, are not the German first team, or the Italians, or the Spanish, or the French, or the English, or the Dutch, or the Belgians (clearly, neither is the American first team). Before we start think of Jozy as anything other than a mid-level player, he needs to prove it against a first level defense. Personally, I hope does, but before I buy the trash written by American sports writers hyping American talent, I will look back to the last world cup when they kept saying how great the American squad was, and how for they were going to go, just before they get spanked by Ghana, ranked thirteen slots below them at that time.

      My dad always put it well, if you can’t be honest to yourself about yourself, you are only fooling yourself.

      Again, the proof is in the pudding. When I see Jozy go head to head with the best, and score with the skill of a top 50 striker in a top European league, then I will be convinced that he is that good, or should be written about in an article comparing him to Torres.

      • joeyt360 - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        So you’re gonna do the MIB thing on the last year and a half, then.

      • schmutzdeck - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:23 AM


        I think you are making the same mistake all USMNT fans make.

        You all seem to evaluate US players in terms of their level in the club team world. Performance in the club world is not always necessarily directly related to performance in the national team world.

        If you are using the quality of their club as a standard, none of the USMNT players is good enough to even make the final 23 World Cup roster of a Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy and so on.

        But for the purposes of competing in and possibly winning the World cup, the only tournament the US plays in that is serious, I’m not sure it matters.

        The US has enough talented players to hang with and even beat, one of the big boys, occasionally. But the talent level in terms of club level, remains second or even third tier. Still it is good enough to win.

        JK knew this from day one and his high line, high pressure, up tempo style has the benefit of minimizing the talent gap. Play this style well and you can beat anyone. JK has mostly been doing one thing, trying to introduce consistency of performance.

        Jozy may never be the subject of a big money transfer that a Torres might command but chances are he will be able to score goals in the World Cup for the US and that is what matters.

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