USMNT Roundtable: Should Jozy Stay Or Should He Go?
Jozy Altidore’s struggles in Sunderland have precipitated an emergency session of OTF’s USMNT roundtable…
Michael Bradley did it. Clint Dempsey did it. Even Maurice Edu figured out a way to do it. Throw in Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst, and the flow of USMNT players from Europe to MLS has surged from trickle to torrent over the last 12 months.
It’s no longer fashionable for American players of national team caliber to hack around the fringes of top European squads. MLS can make them rich, famous, or at least more gainfully employed than the fickle clubs of the old countries.
This raises a question: why does Jozy Altidore, presumptive starting striker for USMNT in Brazil, keep slogging his way through the turgid mess that is Sunderland’s 2013-14 season?
Yes, he’s getting playing time, and no doubt getting well paid. But he could have that and goals by the dozen if he came home — maybe even if he moved sideways to another EPL club or top flight European league.
The January transfer window is closing, but let us assume that Jozy could move if he wished — should he? And if so, where should he go?
The roundtable considers…
Should Jozy Altidore stay at Sunderland? This has been a hot question given his underwhelming performance this year: 2 goals in 27 appearances. Unlike Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley before their moves back to MLS, Altidore isn’t running short of playing time at Sunderland. Instead, his current problems are, in my opinion, twofold.
First, Sunderland has been through three managers since he signed with the team on July 9th of last year: Paolo Di Canio (31 March 2013-22 September 2013), Kevin Ball (Caretaker, 22 September 2013-8 October 2013), and finally Gus Poyet (8 October 2013-Present).
In his short time with the team, Di Canio took a hatchet to the squad — 14 new signings, and public criticism of some players at the end of the 2012-13 season. This leads to the second problem, a host of new players leads to a team that has to learn to play together.
With two new coaches, a team will find it hard to gel due to different playing styles. In the US Squad, Jozy played a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. At Sunderland, he’s playing the middle striker during a 4-3-3. In addition, the forwards at the club aren’t getting consistent service, which can always affect a player who needs to stay in rhythm.
Now, should he move away from the Stadium of Light? It’s hard to say. Generally, strikers benefit from scoring as it just breeds more scoring, something Jozy isn’t doing at Sunderland. However, taking a step down competition wise might be worse for his confidence.
Personally, I think he should stick it out at Sunderland, and prove what most of us know: he can play at a Premier League level.
Jozy Altidore’s inability to find the back of the net for his club team, Sunderland, has truly put him in a delicate situation. He has only scored twice for the Black Cats and his lack of scoring means he is dropping ever lower on manager Gus Poyet’s depth chart.
Also, Jozy’s poor run of scoring form is jeopardizing his opportunity to be a starting striker in the 2014 World Cup. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not been shy about communicating his desire for players to be at the peak of their performance before the Brazil tournament begins.
Currently, it seems Jozy is following the same career path as the Dempster and Mikey B: A player good enough to play in the best leagues, but probably not good enough to play for the best teams in those leagues.
So there is the dilemma. Does Jozy grind away for the relegation clubs of the top Euro leagues? Or does he come home to be a superstar in MLS? A tough choice when you’re only 24.
Sure, I would love to see Jozy back in MLS. However, that’s for my own selfish reasons. Jozy is only 24 years old. He still has a few more years to reach his peak athletic potential. It seems to me he has enough time on his side to chase his dreams of European soccer with another club.
With only a few days left in the transfer window, I feel it’s probably best to request a transfer or loan to a new European club. He deserves another shot at top flight glory.
The traditional thought nearing a World Cup is that a player should be getting as many minutes as he possibly can, at the highest level, and working as hard as he can to impress the national boss. Unless he’s got history and plays for a superclub — then sub/spot-starter’s fine.
Unless he’s playing too little or poorly — in which case why isn’t he pushing for more minutes at a lower-division side? Surely he could find a Groove and recapture his Form? Those eye-popping numbers will get him the call if he’s playing a weak position for country and if — can’t emphasize this enough — he’s playing as many minutes as he possibly can. Unless…
He also needs to abide by whatever extra rules the national-team manager adds, like Italy’s behavioral policy or Jurgen’s mandate to play in Europe. Funnily enough, Jozy’s become one of the few players studiously following that last bit, to his credit. He’s young, still filling his bag of tricks, and the level of competition he faces will force him to develop. Unless he’s in over his head.
There’s an argument to be made for finding a club with the right playing style, but that seems short-termism. Should he take a pay cut to get some US national style? Who plays whatever that is anyway?
Besides, no club plays a style permanently, and often players need to adapt to what a game demands regardless. If having all the USMNT playing the style we want was the paramount goal, why doesn’t USSF field a USMNTFC, where they can get all Klinsi, all the time? (I hear there’s a great stadium spot in the Bronx. Or was it the Miami docks?)
So, should it be Jozy and the Black Cats, with frustration and 2nd-half subs and parked buses, or agitating for transfer to a land where the goals should flow but he won’t quite feel the same hot breath on his neck as he’s striking a winner into the corner? Let’s not break up the band just yet. Unless…
To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.