2514_isi_altidorejozy_usmntmj101513260 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
On the Record

Here's What They're Saying About Jozy Altidore

Is the 24-year-old New Jersey native out of his depth at Sunderland? Enduring a run of terrible luck? A victim of poor service? Laura Greene researched what folks are saying, and has gathered it here.
BY Laura Greene Posted
February 05, 2014
4:42 PM
WELL INTO HIS SECOND run in the English Premier League, Jozy Altidore has so far struggled to establish himself as a top threat in England's top tier. However, he does play for Sunderland—a team that seems to have an aversion to doing things the easy way.

After signing for the club seven months ago, Altidore has seen firebrand manager Paolo Di Canio depart, Kevin Ball act as caretaker, and Gus Poyet brought in as the Black Cats’ new boss. Since June the club have brought in a whopping 18 new players, while the likes of Simon Mignolet, Stephane Sessegnon, and Ahmed Elmohamady have been sold on to do very well elsewhere in the top flight. Yes, there has been a lot of change at the Stadium of Light.

Altidore came to Wearside from Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar, where he racked up 23 goals in 33 appearances during the 2012/13 season. No stranger to the northern reaches of the UK, Altidore had previously played for Hull City, where he failed to make a lasting impact. Apart from, that is, on Alan Hutton—who was head-butted by Altidore in a crucial top-flight tie against Sunderland. When Altidore came on board, Di Canio was effusive in his praise for the striker. The Italian manager told Sunderland’s official website on July 13, “Altidore is one of the top strikers in Europe. He only joined us on Tuesday but I’m very happy, curious, and excited because I have a very good attacking side at the moment.”

Others were a little more tentative: Four games into the Premier League season, Altidore was yet to find the back of the net, apart from a “goal” which was controversially ruled out against Arsenal on September 14.

“The whys of Altidore's lack of goals this season are painfully obvious,” said Jason Davis on ESPNFC.com on September 18. “At Sunderland, the American is isolated up top, tasked with holdup play on a team that rarely manages long stretches of possession. Service has been lacking, to put it kindly. Paolo Di Canio’s Wearside revolution looks more like a polite throat-clearing.”

With his side bottom of the league and many stories of dressing room unrest making the rounds, the death knell was ready to sound on Di Canio’s time in charge. After picking up just one point from five games, the Italian was fired and Ellis Short’s team were on the lookout for its sixth permanent manager in five years.

  • “Any player is a product of the environment,” Altidore said in the Sunderland Echo on October 14.
  • “If we’re playing good attacking football, you’re always going to have opportunities to score goals."
  • “I don’t change my mentality or the way I play.
  • “I feel like I’m playing well at Sunderland. We just have some bad luck right now, but I feel like I’m playing well and doing things right. Benched for all but nine minute’s of Poyet’s first game in charge, Altidore’s status in the Premier League was at odds with his fortunes on the international scene. In August, the striker netted a hat-trick in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina. In October he was named captain for the United States men’s senior team friendly against Panama and was voted U.S. Soccer's Male Athlete of the Year on November 22.

    The 24-year-old’s club fortunes spiked a little in mid-October, when he was named Sky Sports’ Man of the Match in his first hotly contested Tyne-Wear derby against Newcastle, where he provided the assist for Fabio Borini’s 84th-minute winner.

    Four games later, his first Premier League goal arrived—against Chelsea no less—in a 4-3 thriller. However, often marooned up-front and receiving little service from midfield, another dry spell followed. As did some fairly harsh criticism. “When is a striker not a striker? When he scores two league goals in 45 matches,” said Niall Hickman in the Daily Express on December 23, with a headline that read: “Dozy Jozy Altidore’s a real miss for the fans.”


    Indeed he does. At AZ Altidore benefited from playing as part of a three-pronged attack in a 4-3-3 formation. He always had service and he was given license to roam as he played the Dutch team’s brand of attacking football. The notoriously poor Eredivisie defenses would also be a boost for any striker looking to build up a significant goal tally.

    At Sunderland, Altidore has been deployed in a 4-1-4-1, where he receives little support and is often used as a battering ram, charged with holding up the ball and allowing others to pour forward.

    As ASN’s Blake Thomsen wrote back in July: “As most U.S. fans know, Altidore thrives on service in the box. He is not a true target striker, he is not particularly fast, and he is not the most technically gifted forward—at least not yet. But he is a lethal finisher when he receives the ball in dangerous positions.”

    Since his goal against Chelsea, Altidore’s goal drought has resumed and with it, another wave of criticism.

    “I don't think giving him more games is going to help. In fact, it might make the problem worse…Nobody who can slot that goal in against Arsenal or draw it back under his foot and slap it into Chelsea's net against Terry is a bad player. Jozy isn't a bad player. But he does need time away to get his head right again. The longer this goes on, the worse it's going to get,” wrote Cuteybuns on fans forum Sunderlandmad.com on Jan 27.

    “Even if you’re the most ardent, bandanna-wearing member of the American Outlaws you’d probably have to concede that Jozy Altidore’s tenure at Sunderland has turned into a total flop,” wrote Mike Cardillo on thebiglead.com on January 29.

    Fortunes at Sunderland, however, appear to be on the up. The team saw off Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, to set up a date with Manchester City in a Wembley final.

    The Black Cats are also off the bottom of the league table and out of the relegation zone, after suffering just two defeats in its last 10 games.

    Yet concerns remain about Altidore’s proficiency in front of goal—or lack thereof. Following Sunderland’s 1-0 win against Conference side Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup, the Sunderland Echo’s Graeme Anderson, wrote:

    The big American had many supporters on his arrival at Sunderland, but week by week they have begun to melt away to the point where they may disappear entirely by the advent of spring.

    Kidderminster should have been the moment seized by Altidore, instead it was quite the reverse.

    And he has to realise that time is now beginning to run out on his dream of becoming a star in Sunderland’s stripes.

    His failure to find goals or make decisive contributions in other areas of the game, is becoming a luxury Sunderland can no longer afford to indulge.

    Despite all of that, Altidore appears to be working very hard on his all-around game. On January 11, he was involved in two goals as Sunderland took on Fulham and beat them with a resounding 4-1 scoreline. One of Sunderland’s goals was a penalty kick, won by Altidore yet converted by Adam Johnson—perhaps indicative of the striker’s confidence levels, or simply a gracious opportunity handed to teammate Adam Johnson to notch a hat-trick. Against Newcastle, in Saturday’s derby, Altidore failed to score but impressed with his work rate, holding the ball up well and proving a real handful for the Magpies' defense.

    Again, a lack of confidence was demonstrated when he rounded goalkeeper Tim Krul and missed what should have been an easy goal.

    After the game, he told SAFC.com, “I've definitely let the boys down in front of goal and I’ve been freezing up a bit, but I’ve been trying to do other things to try and make an effect. The boys have done really well picking up the slack. If we keep going like this then we’ll have a good end to the season.”

    Sunderland fans showed their support, following the game:

    “[Altidore] Was excellent and had his best game for us. The one-on-one showed his complete lack of confidence in front of goal,” TopCat commented on readytogo.net.

    “I've been his biggest critic since he joined, but he had a very good game for us today. More of the same please Jozy,” added Snoodles on February 1.

    Manager Gus Poyet also had nothing but praise for the New Jersey native. He was quoted in the Mirror this week, saying:
  • “He was magnificent and I was so sad he didn’t score."
  • “They practically gave it to him but I said to him in the dressing room 'I liked that. Now you know how important you are and you can feel it.'
  • “If we keep on winning, his goal will come.”

    Next up? Altidore’s former team, Hull City.

    What do you think of Laura Greene's On the Record series? And how do you feel about Jozy Altidore's season so far with Sunderland? Share your thoughts below.
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