Jozy Altidore: U.S. can count on me
Jozy Altidore has an opportunity to erase a dismal season with a productive World Cup, but first he must convince U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann he can be trusted to perform.
Altidore scored just one Premier League goal in his first season with Sunderland, and hasn't started a match since March.
And as the United States' pre-World Cup camp opens on Wednesday, Altidore must prove he deserves to be among the 23 players Klinsmann takes to Brazil.
"For me, the biggest thing is to show up to camp tomorrow, Wednesday, and show the boss and show the coaching staff that I'm a guy they can count on. That's all I'm worried about," Altidore told ESPN FC. "Like I said, I'm only going to worry about what I can control, and that's showing up to camp and giving everything I have in every session, and trying to be on that plane to Brazil because nothing is a given, nobody is guaranteed and I want to first get that done, and then, you know, you look at the rest later."
Sunderland transformed themselves once Altidore lost his starting spot for good on March 31. In six games in April and May, Sunderland won four and drew one to secure their Premier League status for next season. Altidore came off the bench in four of the games.
"We stayed up, you look at the last five or six games and you watch those games, you really watch them, you watch the type of football we played," Altidore said. "That's the type of football that we need to play, and I think Gus [Poyet] would be the first one to tell you that. That's the type of team he wants to put out there. A team that plays, that looks to create chances, that's, in the end, why we were successful.
"Not fighting and, obviously you have to have that fight, you have to have that mentality, but the football we played in the last five games, I think, was the reason we stayed up. We created chances, we were a tough team to play against, and I think that's what we have to do starting next season."
The U.S. striker did say the team's late-season success provided solace for a disappointing personal campaign.
"Absolutely. Look, in the bigger picture, yeah, you could have scored 20 goals or something, that'd be great, and then we went down, and then what?" Altidore said. "That's the way I look at it, you have to look at the positives. Now, it's like I said, it's about getting into preseason fit, and having another go.
On "Inside: U.S. Soccer's March To Brazil," which aired on Wednesday, Klinsmann blamed Altidore's lack of production on a lack of service and opportunities, but Sunderland manager Gus Poyet did not have any answers for Altidore's struggles.
"I don't know if it's when you feel that you are a main player. I don't know if the pace of the game with the national team is different than England," Poyet said on SirusXM radio. "I don't, I don't know. Something is, of course, not working for us with Jozy."
Altidore said he would be happy to return to Sunderland but understands he may not be welcomed back.
"I mean, look, I'm always a person that, I don't give up easy," Altidore said. "So, I'm looking forward to having the chance. And if not, if we come to the conclusion that's not the best option and I go somewhere else, you know, so be it. As of right now my mind set is obviously the World Cup, but, as well as getting back to Sunderland, and having a better season."
With the Premier League season concluded, Altidore can turn his attention to the U.S. squad and the World Cup that begins in under a month.
The U.S. faces one of the most difficult group stage challenges against Germany, Portugal and Ghana, but Altidore says the Americans must believe they have a chance.
"I'm not a psychic so I can't see the future," he said. "But, I will tell you that, like I said, World Cup anything can happen, and that's why the games have to be played, and we look at ourselves like everybody else in the group. It's going to be difficult, but you have to try to put together your best soccer and hopefully we can do that starting against Ghana, and work our way down to Portugal and Germany.
"Look, I think the team has shown a lot of character in the last three or four years. I think we've grown a lot, and I think we're as good as we want to be. At the end of the day, we just have to have the mentality that we're going to be a tough team to beat. That has to be our starting point, is that we're going to work hard, and from there I think we have some talent, we have some special abilities that can win us a game, absolutely.
"I can't wait. This is what you play for, isn't it? This is the pinnacle of our sport, you know, everybody's excited for it. This is what you dream of as a child, to have this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to the chance."