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The Jozy Altidore Conundrum

Since bursting on the scene as a 16-year-old with the New York Red Bulls, Jozy Altidore has been the focal point of United States soccer. He received the largest ever transfer fee for an MLS player, when Villareal paid $10 million in 2009 for his services. He broke Clint Dempsey’s record for goals by an American in a European club season when he scored 24 for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.

At just 25, he has already starred in two World Cups for the United States, as well as numerous continental competitions across the global soccer community. Despite his obvious impact, having been the first choice striker on the national team for the past two World Cup cycles, Altidore remains a controversial figure amongst the USMNT faithful.

Let’s go back to 2013, perhaps the peak of Altidore’s career thus far. In May, Altidore scored the winning goal in the Dutch Cup against PSV Eindhoven, giving AZ their first cup winner’s trophy in 31 years. This was Altidore’s 31st goal of the Dutch season, including three hat tricks.

Altidore followed up that brilliant Eredivisie campaign with a number of very strong showings for the national team. In June, he ended a national team scoring drought by netting one in a friendly against Germany. Then he scored the following game against Jamaica, and the game after that against Panama, the first time in Altidore’s career that he scored in three consecutive national team games. He finished up his June scoring account by scoring in his fourth consecutive game against Honduras, tying a national team record.

In August of that year, he continued his brilliant run of form, scoring a hat trick in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, his fifth straight game with a goal, a USMNT record. Altidore was the goal scorer that national team fans had clamored for.

Then came the nightmare move to Sunderland. Altidore struggled to get minutes with the Premier League club, and seemed further away from scoring a goal than his home in Florida. Over two seasons in England, Altidore managed just 42 appearances, many of them as a substitute or in lesser cup matches, and scored just one goal for the Black Cats.

While Altidore remained Jurgen Klinsmann’s first choice striker throughout his dry spell, national team fans wondered if their once star striker could regain the form he showcased in the Netherlands.

However, Altidore found a savior in the form of Toronto FC, when the Canadian club swapped Jermaine Defoe for Altidore with Sunderland, bringing the striker home to MLS. Michael Bradley, Altidore’s national teammate recruited Altidore to TFC, ahead of his original MLS club New York Red Bulls, who failed to find a cash settlement with Toronto to move up the allocation order.

With 10 goals in 19 appearances for Toronto, Altidore seems to be settling in nicely in MLS, and with his recent run of form, apparently a move away from Europe didn’t hurt his form with the national team.

After dropping out of the Gold Cup due to lack of fitness recovering from a hamstring injury, Altidore has apparently worked tirelessly to regain his place as Klinsmann’s first choice striker. The two goals he scored against Peru are a direct result of that hard work. If he can manage more goals against Brazil or Mexico in October, it’s time national team fans start thinking that Altidore is back.

While he’s been streaky throughout his young career, Altidore seems poised for an all-time great run of play. Hopefully it returns him to the good graces of the national team fan base as he returns to form.

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