Ebbs and flows are a natural part of professional soccer. It's just that nobody expected the ebbs during Jozy Altidore's first season with Sunderland to be so pronounced or long lasting.
Despite making 31 EPL appearances (19 starts) for the Black Cats after a $13 million transfer last summer following two wildly successful seasons with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, Altidore scored just one league goal under the tutelage of Paolo Di Canio and current manager Gus Poyet.
For much of the season, it appeared Altidore would be plying his trade in the Championship come August as Sunderland limped out to an awful start that saw Di Canio sacked. But a late surge ensured EPL status for the 2014/15 season.
It didn't, however, allay concerns that Altidore's place at the club wasn't secure.
Poyet, speaking to The Football Show on SiriusXM FC 94, addressed Altidore's debut season with Sunderland on Tuesday, explaining why he thinks the 24-year-old's form with the USMNT (eight goals in 2013) has outstripped his production during his second stint in the Premier League.
“I don’t know if it’s when you feel that you are a main player. I don’t know if the pace of the game with the national team is different than England," Poyet said. "I don’t, I don’t know. Something is, of course, not working for us with Jozy.”
But clearly it would be a mistake to take that statement as an indication that Poyet has given up on his young American. On the contrary, the Uruguayan added that he appreciated Altidore's efforts this season and isn't overly worried about his future with the club.
“Every game he came on, he gave us a hand – at Stamford Bridge is an example. He was always trying his best," Poyet said. "Unfortunately, the goals didn’t come for him. But I am relaxed because if you see the power he’s got, if you see the shot – he can shoot, I can tell you that, because I see him every day. It’s just that momentum, that click that is going to be for him so important.
“But I’m quite relaxed with Jozy, to be honest. I’m one of the few. I know it’s difficult for a striker when he doesn’t score, but I like him. I like him. I like him as a boy and I like him as a player. He just couldn’t find the net. Sometimes it happens. You change clubs, and you cannot do it at one club for whatever reason.”
Altidore, meanwhile, was named to Jurgen Klinsmann's provisional 30-man roster for this summer's World Cup on Monday and is the favorite to start up top for the US when they begin the group stage against Ghana on June 16 in Natal.
“Nothing [turned] out the way anybody thought it would at Sunderland," Altidore told ESPN (see video below). "Nobody wants to go through these types of moments, but this is life, this is a career and you’re going to have these types of ups and downs. This is one of those downs that you have to ride through.”
Klinsmann, for his part, preached that better things are still to come for Altidore in Brazil, despite his struggles at the club level this year.
"We coaches are looking forward to having him in camp and having our influence into the next step and we believe that Jozy can play a very big World Cup," Klinsmann said on Monday. "Obviously he has to work the next couple of weeks to confirm our trust, which we think he will absolutely do. But I think he is still a player to be developed; he is not there yet.”