No, this isn’t Return of the King or anything else related to the fictional world of J.R.R. Tolkien. This is about Jozy Altidore making his return to the MLS and looking to revive his club career, while recapturing his national team form. Jurgen Klinsmann has used Altidore as his captain in multiple matches, which suggests that he has big plans for the striker for the 2018 World Cup cycle.
One Club Wonder?
Jozy Altidore was raised in Florida, began playing soccer, and quickly rose to become one of the highest-rated prospects in his age group for the US. He attended the prestigious IMG Academy and turned pro by entering the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. He spent the next few seasons with New York Red Bulls and kept progressing, leading many European clubs to give him a look. He signed with Villarreal, but was loaned out most of the time. Between Villarreal, Hull City, and Bursaspor, Altidore had a bevy of appearances, but only one goal at each of the clubs. Jozy made his breakthrough with Dutch club AZ from 2011-13. He scored 51 goals in 93 appearances, while making himself a mainstay on the national team. Then came the Sunderland goal drought. We all know what has happened to Jozy in the Premier League, leading some to question if he was a one club wonder?
Change of Scenery
Meanwhile in the MLS, Jermain Defoe just never really fit into the model at Toronto FC, pleading for a move back to England. Not many clubs are looking to take a striker with just one goal in a season in a half, so the Jozy for Jermain swap looks like a no-brainer for Sunderland. Both needed a change of scenery, and each got a very favorable situation. This is all good and well, but some of us began jumping for joy when thinking about who Jozy would be playing with.
Jurgen Klinsmann has long stated that he wants his players to play at the highest level, and its not secret that he doesn’t think of the MLS as the highest level. He did however, recognize the fact that playing anywhere is better than sitting on the bench somewhere. He also might love that fact that Michael Bradley is already in Toronto. Bradley and Altidore are arguably the two most mainstay players for Klinsmann on the national team, and now they have the chance to play together year round. That has to be great news for Klinsmann, having his striker play with the midfielder who will be providing him with service for the national team.
When it comes to the national team, Jurgen Klinsmann has experimented with a few different formations. The two most common were a 4-4-2, and a 4-2-3-1 (or 4-5-1). The latter was heavily based upon Jozy Altidore being the lone striker up top, which is fine as long as he is healthy. When Jozy went down during the World Cup, the whole team was thrown off on the attack, with Dempsey having to move as a lone striker up top. The other formation that was used, the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, seemed to throw off the players as well. Despite all this, Klinsmann is determined to get Bradley to play further up the field than he is used to, and hopefully this reunion with Altidore will help him adjust to playing near the striker.
The USMNT will have a busy time up until the next World Cup with the Olympics, Gold Cup, and World Cup qualifying. The team is currently in their January camp in California before heading off for friendlies against Chile and Panama. The current camp has a combination of World Cup veterans and players that will be vying for a spot on the Olympic team. It is made almost exclusively of MLS players since it is the MLS offseason and European clubs are not required to release their players. 14 of the players in camp are hoping to snag their first cap for the senior team.
Fans like me are hoping that 2015 goes a lot better than how 2014 ended. The last two matches against Colombia and Ireland ended in defeat, souring what was mostly a very good campaign in a World Cup year. With the upcoming friendlies, we will have the chance to get a good look at the next generation of MLS stars, while having the safety net of the World Cup veterans.