Klinsmann drops Altidore from U.S. squad
NEW YORK -- Jozy Altidore was dropped Monday from the U.S. roster for a pair of critical World Cup qualifiers after disappointing U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann in games and practice over the past year.
Klinsmann instead selected Seattle's Eddie Johnson and San Jose's Alan Gordon to join Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez and Landon Donovan as attacking players on his 24-man roster for games at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday and home against Guatemala on Oct. 16.
Seeking their seventh straight World Cup appearance, the Americans face likely elimination unless they get at least four points. The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica all have 2-1-1 records with seven points, and only the top two teams in the group advance to next year's regional finals.
"I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," Klinsmann said during a conference call from Miami. "I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he's not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training. Also certain things that went on through the May-June camp."
Klinsmann also said Donovan's left knee injury sustained Saturday while playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy did not appear to be serious and that midfielder Jermaine Jones' left ankle injury was minor.
The decision to drop Altidore was the most significant. The 22-year-old has nine goals in 10 games this season for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands and is tied for the Dutch league lead with eight goals. But he was ineffective in the home-and-home games with Jamaica.
Altidore has 13 goals in 51 international appearances but none since November's exhibition at Slovenia. He arrived late at the May-June camp when his club cited FIFA regulations and blocked him from reporting on time.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed in the decision," Altidore said through the U.S. Soccer Federation. "At the same time, I fully support the team in their efforts to get six points from the next two games so we can advance to the final round. My goal continues to be to do everything I can to help the team be successful."
Altidore, who has played in 17 straight qualifiers dating to October 2008, could return in the future.
"This is a decision as of today, for these two games, so the door is always open," Klinsmann said. "We hope to see a positive reaction from his end and put more effort and more commitment into this whole approach."
Klinsmann also had been critical of Altidore in an ESPN.com interview that ran Sept. 28. Altidore, according to multiple reports, posted a tweet, which since has been removed: "Love when people try to blame others for their own short comings and incompetence." Klinsmann said he wasn't sure the comment was directed at him.
"The tweet people are referring to had nothing to do with Jurgen," Altidore said. "When I realized there may be some confusion, I deleted it."
Klinsmann also bypassed Rapid Vienna's Terrence Boyd, who has seven goals for his club this season, and San Jose's Chris Wondolowski, who leads Major League Soccer with 25 goals.
Johnson has not played for the national team since May 2010, just before he was cut from the World Cup roster, and Gordon has yet to make his national team debut.
"Both are really strong in the air," Klinsmann said. "We need to here and there probably force things with crosses coming over the wings and get really strong in the air."
The 28-year-old Johnson appeared twice at the 2006 World Cup but his career slowed when he left Kansas City to sign with England's Fulham in 2008. He was loaned to Cardiff, Greece's Aris and Preston North End, but returned to MLS this year and scored 14 league goals for the Sounders.
"It's been a long road, a lot of hurdles I've had overcome, a lot of adversity I've had to face," said Johnson, who credited Sounders coach Sigi Schmid for his revival.
Klinsmann said Donovan decided to skip an MRI on the knee and was traveling Monday to Miami. Jones didn't dress for Schalke on Saturday.
"For both it looks very positive," Klinsmann said.
Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan returns to the roster for the first time since February. Roma's Michael Bradley is back after recovering from a thigh injury that had sidelined him since August. He scored his first Serie A goal Sunday.
Jose Torres, who started in the 1-0 home win over Jamaica last month, was dropped because of a bruised right foot.
While the U.S. is ranked 32nd, Guatemala 81st and Antigua 106th, Klinsmann is expecting difficult games. He thought back to March, when the U.S. under-23 team was eliminated from Olympic qualifying when it allowed a stoppage-time goal to El Salvador.
"What happened to the Olympic team was a huge warning to whoever thinks CONCACAF is an easy region to go through and qualify," he said.
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander, Spain), Geoff Cameron (Stoke, England), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana, Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Maurice Edu (Stoke, England), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland, Denmark).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma, Italy), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Jermaine Jones (Schalke, Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium), Brek Shea (Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim, Germany), Graham Zusi (Kansas City).
Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Tottenham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Alan Gordon (San Jose), Eddie Johnson (Seattle).