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Jozy Altidore to captain the U.S. in Panama: Oh, what a difference a year makes

Oct 15, 2013, 7:49 PM EDT

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October 2012:

Jozy Altidore is a surprise omission from the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of crucial third round qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala.

After months of speculation as to why the AK Alkmaar star can’t replicate his club proclivity for his national team, the then 21-year-old is deemed surplus to Jurgen Klinsmann’s requirements. The omission sparks debate amongst U.S. fans and media, both regarding Altidore’s performance and as to whether the U.S. boss has gone too far.

Although the U.S. is not guaranteed to go through, Klinsmann has decided to tackle the round’s final qualifiers without his most talented number nine. It’s a gamble few would take.

October 2013:

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

Last fall’s debates are dead. The U.S. not only finished first in third round qualifying but replicated the feet in The Hex, winning CONCACAF’s final ground for the third cycle running. With a victory tonight in Panama City, the U.S. equal a Hex record for points (22, set by the U.S. and Mexico in 2006).  The team’s FIFA ranking is at its highest point since 2009.

On an individual level, Altidore’s undergone a similar rise. For Alkmaar, he’d finish the season with 31 all-competition goals (41 games), leading his club to the Dutch Cup. That performance earned him a move to the Premier League, where he’s won early praise with Sunderland despite going goalless for a struggling club.

At the international level, Alitdore’s scored six goals this year, bringing his career total to 21 (63 games). His hat trick in a 4-3 win at Bosnia capped a five-game scoring streak, a U.S. record. If armbands were based on performance alone, Altidore would have earned this honor.

But they’re not based on performance, though for Jurgen Klinsmann, that surely plays a part. It makes Altidore on for his squad’s key players. In addition, though, a captain has to exemplify what a coach wants from his squad. If anything can be read into today’s decision, it’s that Altidore, one year after failing to be called up for qualifying, has become one of Klinsmann’s standouts.

That’s a long journey to make in 12 months’ time, and both sides deserve a lot of credit. Few doubted Altidore’s ability or willingness to respond, and he has. The soon-to-be 24-year-old has reached new heights, more consistent.

Klinsmann also deserves a nod. He knew what needed to be done and, in the face of an unpopular decision, wasn’t afraid to do it. Perhaps that wasn’t the only way to get the most out of Altidore, but it’s difficult to argue with the results. By challenging him, Klinsmann’s made Altidore into CONCACAF’s most productive striker.

One step back has sent Jozy sprinting forward, progress Klinsmann acknowledges with tonight’s reward. For the first time at senior level, he’ll lead his team onto the field.

  1. dfstell - Oct 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Isn’t this kinda weird? I mean……I don’t really ever see Jozy being a vocal leader out there. On the other hand, I’m not sure it matters who the captain is.

  2. Andrew Marcinko - Oct 15, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Reblogged this on –Footy America– and commented:

  3. danielofthedale - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    This a great honor and a well deserved on for Jozy. He is the only bona fide A-Team player in the starting lineup. Great choice in my opinion.

  4. hildezero - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    “…Klinsmann has decided to tackle the round’s final qualifiers without his most talented number nine.”

    You mean, number eleven… Not nine.

    • konmtu - Oct 16, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Nope. He’s right. Your top striker is the number 9 with the setup attacker as the number 10.

  5. jucam1 - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:04 AM

    I say it once again and I am sorry to be proven right. Against real competition in the EPL this statement is proven, Jozy A is the most overrated player in Football. It’s cute to score goals against MLS and Concacaf competition, but against real world class competition the guy gets his @@s handed to him, he got a manager fired in the EPL for Gods sake

    • konmtu - Oct 16, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      A hat trick against UEFA WC qualifiers Bosnia IS real world competition. At the time Bosnia was even ranked ahead of the USMNT.

      • konmtu - Oct 16, 2013 at 10:27 AM

        And… If you’ve watched any Sunderland games, you’d know that Jozy is not Sunderland’s problem. He passes the eyeball test even though he’s not getting a lot of statistics.

    • lyleoross - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      I know some of this has already been said, but I think a reiteration is in order. Which Jozy Altidore are you watching? I remember the Jozy from the last World Cup. Pathetic. I called him a Mac truck. Slow acceleration, although with a high top end speed, big, but unable to change direction.

      The one we see today is more dynamic. He is quite agile, is clearly thinking, has a beautiful touch, and an eye for position. Yes, he is relatively untried against the top, but he has shown a clear dominance over second tier players.

      The Sunderland fiasco is not Jozie’s fault, period. The club has no middle to support and serve Jozie (well one, but he’s an attacking mid, and that isn’t going to be conducive to helping JA), and no striker is going to thrive unless you get them the ball in a useful way. Jozie’s dominance during WCQ play was brilliant because MB did his job to perfection. He dominated the middle, and made beautiful balls to JA. Balls that didn’t do the job for JA, but that allowed him to do his job.

      As for the firing of Sunderland’s manager, that might just be because he treated top level players in a relatively psychotic fashion to the point where they refused to play for him any more. How you can blame that on Jozie is amazing.

  6. hildezero - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:27 AM

    Wow. That is one of the most ignorant comments out there. I mean… I don’t even know what to say other than you’re dumb.

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