October 9, 2012
Jurgen Klinsmann, the manager of America’s men’s national soccer team, has caused quite a controversy by leaving forward Jozy Altidore off of the roster for the U.S.’s upcoming World Cup qualifying games on Oct. 12 and Oct. 16. Klinsmann, a former German international player and manager, has been on the job for the U.S. team for 14 months now and this is certainly his most controversial move since taking over the reins from Bob Bradley.
Altidore might not have set the world on fire in his last half dozen games for his country, two of which he started and the other four as a substitute. In fact he hasn’t scored a goal for his country in that time and has set up just one, but he’s leading the Dutch league in scoring so far this season with eight goals to his name while playing for AZ Alkmaar. With huge qualifying games coming up against Antigua and Barbuda (Oct. 12) and Guatemala four days later, many supporters feel Altidore should have at least been named to the 24-player squad just in case his skills are needed.
It’s expected that Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez will lead the attack for the Americans in their first game, but where will Klinsmann look if they’re ineffective, or if one of them gets injured or receives a red card? The answer is Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson as they’ve both been included to on the roster. Altidore is just 22 years old and has played in 17 consecutive World Cup qualifying games, which leads the team. He also played for the Americans at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 so has plenty of experience to draw from.
Klinsmann’s decision is especially puzzling when you consider he’s been in charge of the team for 18 games now and they’ve scored more than once in just three of those contests. Goal scoring is obviously a weak area in his teams and Altidore is proving in Holland that he’s in fine form right now.
The U.S. needs every point it can get in these two games since they’re tied at the top of their CONCACAF qualifying group with Jamaica and Guatemala with seven points each. The Americans have to finish in the top two or they won’t advance to the next round and will already be eliminated from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before it even kicks off. The only bright spot at the end of the dark tunnel is that Antigua and Barbuda are in last place in the group.
However, that still doesn’t guarantee a win. But if they do manage to bring all three points home with them from that game they still need to gain at least a point against Guatemala at home to make sure they advance to the next round. No matter what way you look at it, Klinsmann and his men have a tough task ahead of them. The job is going to be even harder though without Altidore at least on the bench.
It’s understood that Altidore’s club team wasn’t too thrilled about releasing him for the games, but they wouldn’t have a choice if he was selected. The World Cup qualifying games are sanctioned by FIFA and the rules state that all clubs must release players for national duty for these contests. But the final decision on his omission lies entirely in Klinsmann’s hands. The manager said he talked to Altidore and told him that he wasn’t happy with his last few games for the national team.
Klinsmann said that Altidore can play a lot better than he has done for his country lately and his performance against Jamaica last month left a lot to be desired and he hasn’t done too well in training camps either. The German added that Johnson and Gordon are playing well in Major League Soccer (MLS) and he wants to give them a chance to show what they can do. Most fans don’t agree with giving players trial ruins during World Cup qualifiers though as there’s far too much at stake. Also, Altidore is obviously doing something right this season for his Dutch club.
According, to Klinsmann, a player’s club form is a big factor when selecting his team, but Gomez has started just once in his last seven league games with Santos Laguna. The manager said he realizes that Altidore’s playing well in Holland, but his play in the last couple of training camps with the national team haven’t been too good and that’s why he’d rather go with Johnson and Gordon instead.
Altidore said he’d love to transform his club success to the national team to become a complete soccer player like Clint Dempsey of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur has done, but it may take some time. His club team also needs to take some of the blame though since it didn’t release him for national team duty in May and June even though the Dutch season had ended. This caused Altidore to miss some training sessions with the U.S. and Gomez took over his starting role on the team.
Admittedly, Altidore said that was a step backward for him and he’s being trying to catch up ever since. He said he’s always trying to become a better payer and tries to adjust his game to Klinsmann’s style, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. His club team plays a different formation than Klinsmann and it’s sometimes hard to adjust to the national team because of it. He’s fitting in just fine in Holland with nine goals in all of his team’s competitions this season, which is one of the best scoring records in all of Europe.
Not selecting Altidore for the squad could certainly blow up in Klinsmann’s face if the U.S. fails to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying. If he wants to bench him that’s fine, but to not include him in the squad at all could end up being a huge mistake.