US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is sticking firmly behind Jozy Altidore, even as the struggling striker falls further from the limelight in Europe.
Speaking on a U.S. Soccer podcast released this week, Klinsmann said that despite Altidore’s lack of playing time and productivity at Sunderland, the 24-year-old New Jersey native is still a lock for the USMNT’s World Cup roster this summer in Brazil.
When asked specifically if a player like Altidore can play himself off the roster by struggling to score goals leading up to next month’s World Cup camp, Klinsmann insisted “I don’t think so … at this point, no.”
Altidore scored one goal in 27 league appearances in his first season for Sunderland, currently destined for relegation from the EPL. He’s been left off the club’s 18-man gameday roster in recent weeks and went as an unused substitute in the team’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Wednesday.
“Obviously we’ve seen so many games over the last two-and-a-half years, we know what [the players] are doing with their club team and why certain things happen,” Klinsmann said. “I know why he’s not scoring goals for Sunderland right now.
“No, he’s a very important part of our team going into this summer’s World Cup, and I’m so convinced he’s going to do well there. But he has to fight his way through right now, stay positive and give it a go every day in training, and prove them wrong.”
Altidore was one of USMNT’s most proficient goalscorers last year, finishing with eight goals in 14 appearances. His last appearance came in the team’s scoreless draw against Austria on Nov. 19.
Klinsmann added that he and his coaching staff have “a pretty good picture of the 28-30 guys” who will make the team’s preliminary roster when the group convenes in Palo Alto, Calif. The US' 30-man roster is due to FIFA on May 12.
“Some have to actually step it up a little bit in MLS that we were not so happy with in recent weeks,” he said. “Some Europeans have to keep the consistency now, and even they have to step it up. Some players in Mexico … they’re right there where we have those discussions, ‘will he make it, won’t he make it…’
“You make the call based on what you’ve seen over the past weeks but also over the last two-and-a-half years.”