PANAMA CITY, Panama – Jurgen Klinsmann’s never been one to linger in a comfort zone – eight club stops in a career lasting nearly two decades attest to that – so it’s no surprise that he’s not particularly worried about Jozy Altidore’s early struggles at Sunderland.
Altidore has just one goal from eight appearances, the opener in a 4-2 victory against Milton Keynes Dons in the Capital One Cup, but don’t count the German among those wringing their hands about a multimillion-dollar move that’s included precious few vintage moments thus far.
So few from Sunderland as a whole that Altidore will have to impress another manager – Gus Poyet, who replaced tabloid favorite Paolo Di Canio – when he heads back to Wearside after Tuesday’s Hexagonal final against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernández (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport).
“No concern at all. First of all, you never know what you’ll get when you make a move like this,” Klinsmann told MLSsoccer.com on Monday afternoon. “Every move to a new club is a jump in the cold water, and you start at zero again. It’s just reality for everyone.
"Courageous, first of all, for making that move coming out of a comfortable nest in Alkmaar where everybody admired him to the shark tank of the Premier League. Not knowing who’s going to feed me there; who are the other players; what philosophy does this coach have? Lot of question marks going in there.
“I’ve watched almost every game so far, and he’s really performed. He hasn’t scored the goals yet, but he did perform. Now going into another coach, he’s in an ongoing, challenging process, which is great. He will get stronger and stronger going through that. He will gain more experience. He will look at things differently. He’s learning on a daily basis. Eventually, his talent with his eagerness to compete and succeed will guide him through that.”
And, according to Klinsmann, Altidore will be that much stronger for any struggle that comes his way. After all, it channels the mindset the German hoped to bring the US player pool when he took the job in July 2011.
Whether you’re targeting a high-profile move, improved position at your current club or a step up to the international level, he wants players to dive head first into the unknown – even if it doesn’t come off immediately.
“For me, it’s very rewarding when I see players stepping up and challenging themselves like Jozy now at Sunderland,” Klinsmann said. “… The guy’s not getting delivered [the ball]. He’s not getting any chances to score. I really enjoy that he’s going to grind it out.
“Even our last game against Jamaica, but he gets rewarded for being persistent, just staying in the game. Suddenly, we break it open and he gets rewarded with a goal. [I’m proud] of those individual moments when you see a player really starts to get it. I just don’t want them to look back years from now and think I missed out on something."