(Sports Network) - When Brian McBride decided to hang up his cleats as a
member of the United States national team following the 2006 World Cup, the
In the six-plus years that have followed, there have been players who have
looked capable of filling McBride's shoes as the man to lead the line for the
Americans, but no one who has taken hold of the role on a regular basis.
Players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey have scored goals for the United
States, but both generally line up in behind the striker or out wide in space.
What Jurgen Klinsmann's attack has been missing is a reliable target man who
can hold up the ball for players like Dempsey and Donovan to run off, while
also providing a consistent threat in front of goal.
And that is where Jozy Altidore comes in.
On Sunday, Altidore scored in the second half of a 2-1 defeat for Dutch club
AZ Alkmaar, taking his goal total to 24 in all competitions this season and
breaking Dempsey's record for most goals scored by an American in a European
Keeping in mind that the Dutch Eredivisie is the equivalent of Coors Field for
a home run hitter, Altidore's total is still impressive when you consider that
he still has 10 games to play.
Dempsey's 23 goals for Fulham last season is maybe the most impressive
campaign by an American in one of Europe's top leagues, but Altidore's
performance for AZ shouldn't be overlooked.
After securing a big move to Spanish side Villarreal in 2008 from Red Bull New
York, Altidore has struggled to live up to the considerable expectations of
He floundered in his time with the Yellow Submarine, appearing in just nine
games over a three-year period for the club while being loaned out to three
But since his move to the Netherlands in 2011, Altidore has been receiving
regular playing time, and this season he has been finding the net on a
consistent basis, something that is very important for a player who is still
just 23 years of age.
The New Jersey native has already earned over 50 caps for the U.S. national
team, and he raised the bar considerably with some early success on the
international level, including a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Trinidad and
Tobago as a 19-year-old.
It appeared at that time the search for McBride's successor had been found.
At 6-foot-1, Altidore is the right combination of size, speed and power. But
his last goal for the national team came on Nov. 15, 2011.
Since that goal against Slovenia in a friendly, Altidore has battled injuries
and fallen out of favor with Klinsmann. But he will need to bring his current
scoring form with AZ across the pond for the U.S. squad at the end of the
In the first game of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in
February, there were a few very visible errors made by the defense in a 2-1
defeat at Honduras.
But what was also very obvious was the fact the U.S. attack lacked imagination,
and instead resorted to kicking the ball long and hoping for a player like
Altidore to latch onto something.
The sabbatical of Donovan certainly doesn't help, so a return to form for
Altidore is even more important as the team prepares for a pair of crucial
games at the end of the month against Costa Rica and Mexico.
An in-form Altidore gives the U.S. attack another dimension that it will need
to overcome an increasingly improved CONCACAF region on its way to the 2014
But if Altidore reverts back to the player he has been while wearing the Stars
and Stripes over the past year, qualification is far from certain.
Dempsey was able to parlay his big year with Fulham last season into a move to
Tottenham for more money, something that Altidore's current campaign will
likely do for him.
There is interest from a number of teams across Europe already. But maybe
Altidore can save a few of those goals for the national team, and in the
process of earning himself a sizable raise, help the U.S. qualify for a place
in Brazil next summer.
Until that time, the search continues.
The Sports Network