WASHINGTON – Electrifying but often elusive, Jozy Altidore's shining moments in a US national team shirt have not arrived with the frequency hoped for under coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
But a clash with three-time World Cup champions Germany on a muggy Sunday at a packed RFK Stadium brought out a banner performance from the 23-year-old striker, providing fresh hopes that he can become just as devastating at the international level as he is for AZ Alkmaar.
“Today, that's the Jozy we all want – scoring a beautiful goal, a goal that [occurs] where he needs to be, in the box as a great finisher, and also getting an assist and putting Clint in a great position,” USMNT assistant coach Martin Vasquez told MLSsoccer.com after Altidore's 13th-minute volley and 60th-minute assist to Clint Dempsey led the USA to a stunning 4-3 victory in front of 47,359 fans in the nation's capital.
“That's the Jozy we want and he's capable of doing that. It has taken a while for him to play a game like that with us – he's been doing it in his club, Alkmaar, so hopefully his performances are more consistent like today.”
Altidore's lengthy USMNT scoring drought had presented a jarring contrast with his prolific scoring form for AZ and at one point last year he was even exiled from the national team in controversial fashion. But Sunday's heroics brought joy and relief for him, his teammates and the many people inside and outside the team who have been hoping to see his revival.
“It's great to see,” said Klinsmann. “He needs from us guidance, he needs from us help when it's needed, and he knows that we do not expect perfection. I was a striker myself – if there's a bad game, there's a bad game, you've got to move on afterwards.
“We want him to have chances, we want him to have opportunities to score. And a lot of the games where he didn't score, he didn't have chances,” added the USMNT boss, who also cautioned that international play is “ about two or three different levels” above what Altidore encounters in the attack-happy environs of the Dutch Eredivisie. “Not only feeding him vertically, but also from the side with crosses, because he is strong in the air, he is technically very, very gifted … He has the finishing, he has the class to do that and he enjoys a nice moment tonight.”
The striker himself was subdued as he discussed his exploits, deflecting praise for his strike to the sterling cross delivered to him by Graham Zusi.
“The way we started the game, we were connecting and finding passes, the biggest thing was creating chances,” said Altidore, who has unquestionably been starved for service at many times, after the match. “I think today was huge in terms of the amount of opportunities we created, how aggressive we were going forward – I think that was the difference. We've always had the talent and it was just a matter of showing it.
“I honestly feel like I've been doing the right things, it was just a matter of being patient and waiting for the chances.”
Much the same can be said for Altidore individually. Vasquez praised his renewed commitment after last year's snub and predicted that “after his performances today, his stocks have gone up” in the eyes of top European clubs reported to be seeking a transfer from Alkmaar.
“You know, I think he responds,” said Klinsmann's right-hand man. “When Jurgen has pushed him, he has responded. Obviously [when] we didn't bring him in for a couple of games, he was pissed. He doesn't want to be left out and his response after that has been very positive, very good for the team.
“I think for his age, he plays big. He's already been through a lot at 23, because he started young. He has to maintain that hunger. He has to maintain that generosity to help the team on both sides of the ball.”