Postcard from Europe: Status update from across the pond
AMSTERDAM – Every so often, it's good to clear the ol' notepad of all scribbles, scratches and tidbits. For our boys playing in Europe, it is once again that time.
Paint by Numbers
With so many US national team fans pondering the disconnect between Jozy Altidore's offensive output with club side AZ Alkmaar and that of the national team, we decided to run some numbers in hopes of cracking the crossover code.
Altidore is setting the early Eredivisie pace with seven goals in five matches. He has also tallied 12 times (along with three assists) in his last 13 league tilts dating back to last season, so we'll compute back that far to help simulate the type of turnover in the squad around him that an international striker can experience in a string of call-ups.
Situationally, he's been a gem. Altidore has bagged six goals in that span during the first half of games and as many after the break. He's opened the scoring four times, given AZ a lead seven times and pulled them level twice. This tells us that questioning of his fitness should be a thing of the past and that the 22-year-old is becoming a high-occasion hit man.
Now, to the raw construction data. Of those dozen goals, Altidore netted seven with the right foot, three headers and twice shooting lefty. He scored five times from a central position, four from the right channel and three from the left. He fired home once from outside the area and once with an easy close-range finish.
These simple stats indicate that Altidore's game has expanded to where he can hit in nearly any way from nearly any type of attacking play – which is hardly a secret. Another pair of stats, however, may be able to provide Jurgen Klinsmann and his US teammates some clue on how to translate his club form.
Half of those 12 goals happened when Altidore dribbled into the box or started his run for the set-up pass outside of it, while five of them came as direct result of quick combination play. The message here? Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff need to give their most talented forward more opportunities to face goal before he reaches the area and keep a technical teammate pushed to within one-two range a lot more often.
Cranking up the Heat
While Altidore is off to the hottest start among American exports in Europe, he is not the only one blazing a new trail of offensive productivity in the North Sea corridor.
After helping FC Nordsjælland win their first Danish crown last term, Michael Parkhurst has started the new season with three goals and three assists from right back in his first seven games.
Over in the Dutch second flight, Charles Kazlauskas has aided Helmond Sport's perfect start from all three lines with a goal and a league-leading three assists in five games. Add in the last two games of last season, and he has three goals and four helpers. If he keeps it up, Altidore may have compatriot company in the Eredivisie next fall.
O Gooch, Where Art Thou?
While Málaga summer catch Oguchi Onyewu was not in uniform for their successful Champions League debut on Tuesday, he is on the applicable UEFA roster. The club told MLSsoccer.com that he's still busy gaining fitness from a minor preseason knee injury, having joined first-team training only last week.
Busy rehabbing his injured knee back in the States, Bolton's Stuart Holden remains on schedule for his return to the Reebok. The club told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday that it still expects the midfield ace back across the pond in mid-October to complete his recovery.
Speaking of Wanderers...
Tim Ream's tough start to the season and subsequent benching should not really come as much of a surprise, nor should it necessarily be cause for excessive concern. He just needs to learn to do what he does quicker.
Having moved to the Championship after relegation, the US defender actually adapting to a higher pace of play. The English second flight is generally considered the fastest league in the world, with games often played at frantic speeds.
The last American defender to work exclusively in the EPL before dropping down was Jonathan Spector, who handled it expertly. Of course, he had 119 Premiership matches to prep for it, whereas Ream got only 13. It says here Championship stability is just a matter of time.
Speaking of the Brum...
It's definitely worth noting that Spector was named as Birmingham City's August Player of the Month, with his four appearances split between right back and central midfield. It was his first time gaining this club honor since 2010, when he was in the EPL with West Ham United.
The Tux Renters
With eight rounds left in Norway, we can expect to see an American name or two when the Tippeligaen Team of the Season is unveiled. Molde winger Josh Gatt is easily the highest-rated front line player in the league by the major publications, while Hønefoss netminder Steve Clark is battling Canadian national team No. 1 Lars Hirschfeld for the best rating at that position.
And let's not forget Rosenborg's Mikkel Diskerud. If he continues on his current form and they rally to win the title, his name could actually appear in the mix despite playing, at most, 12 of 30 league games.