Kick Off: Altidore's USMNT exclusion still making waves
The ripples spread quickly across the US soccer community yesterday.
The pebble, chucked by US manager Jurgen Klinsmann, that broke the surface and had fans and media initially baffled? Jozy Altidore’s surprise exclusion from the 24-man roster that will take on Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala in the Americans’ final two games to seal a place in the Hexagonal.
For a team with well-documented struggles in front of net recently, it would seem Klinsmann would be eager to call in all the firepower at his disposal, especially since Altidore is currently tied for the most goals in the Dutch Eredivisie with eight. But that wasn’t the case, as the German cited recent form with the Yanks as the reason for leaving out the 22-year-old, who had started the past 17 World Cup Qualifiers for the US.
“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, I mean maybe even over the last 14 months,” Klinsmann told reporters. “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 and also in training.”
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl spoke to Altidore last week, when the AZ striker’s place was assumed to be safe. Check out what the former New York Red Bulls prodigy had to say in a wide-ranging interview that touched on his US form, evolution as a striker and relationship with Klinsmann and listen to Wahl discuss the roster with the guys on ExtraTime Radio.
Meanwhile, Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop gave their thoughts on Altidore’s exclusion, and they didn’t seem too shocked to see him excluded, mostly based on recent performances for the US.
Of course, one man’s disappoint means opportunity for another, and that was the case for a pair of MLS standouts. San Jose’s Alan Gordon and Seattle’s Eddie Johnson both received calls, which flummoxed some, but makes perfect sense according to the Armchair Analyst.
Johnson’s place on the team was essentially revealed on Friday night when he tweeted the good news, something Klinsmann laughed off in his conference call. It was the 28-year-old’s first call-up since 2010, and one he certainly isn’t taking for granted.
"It's been a long road, a lot of hurdles I've had to overcome, a lot of adversity I've faced," Johnson said. "The good feeling about all of this is I get to share it with the people who believed in me."
Many believed Landon Donovan would be a late scratch after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury against Real Salt Lake at the weekend. That didn’t turn out to be the case, as the Galaxy star felt so good Monday morning that he skipped his scheduled MRI to fly to Miami.
If Donovan isn’t ready by Friday, it seems certain Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi would be given the opportunity to run the right flank again for the Yanks. In fact, Zusi could find his way on the field regardless after some strong performances for club and country recently, but he’s staying humble all the same.
“It’s absolutely still extremely exciting every time I get the chance,” Zusi said. “I definitely wouldn’t call it second nature yet. With the national team, it could be a different group of guys every time, so it’s a very exciting thing to hear when you name gets called out.”
Everything considered, the roster and Klinsmann’s comments suggesting the team may play more direct, one columnist says don’t expect Hexagonal qualification to be pretty.
Things are looking pretty for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are starting to feel confident in their place in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They didn’t take the field last weekend, but FC Dallas’ draw with Chivas has the ‘Caps in position to grab the final spot in the Western Conference.
Sporting KC are already in – and close to sealing top spot in the Eastern Conference – but they suffered a huge blow against the Crew on Sunday. Midfielder Roger Espinoza is expected to miss up to four weeks with an ankle sprain, which means he will surely miss Honduras’ World Cup qualifiers and he could be out for both of Kansas City’s final two regular-season games.
Staying in the Midwest, the Chicago Fire clinched their spot in the postseason this weekend then celebrated their 15th anniversary on Monday night. It may be a few years since the club’s last trophy, but officials only see good things ahead.
Promise is the name of the game with US U-17 standout Junior Flores, who signed a professional contract with German giants Borussia Dortmund. Watch an insightful interview with the young starlet here.
Two US internationals overseas already have some adjusting to do after Bolton’s Owen Coyle was sacked Monday. Can Tim Ream and Stuart Holden help turn the club’s fortunes around?
Closer to home, fans wondering about where things stand for professional soccer in the state of Minnesota will want to read this Q&A on InsideMNSoccer.com with Minnesota Vikings exec Lester Bagley.
Finally, the future of women’s professional soccer in the US looks brighter after US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said a new league could begin as soon as 2013.
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