When Jozy Altidore joined the New England Revolution ahead of the 2022 MLS season, the defending Supporters' Shield champions hoped the former US men's national team stalwart could recapture his at-times dominant Toronto FC form, bridging the gap following the summertime transfer of Polish striker Adam Buksa.
It hasn't quite panned out that way, as Altidore was officially loaned out to Liga MX side Puebla through the rest of 2022 on Friday, concluding his debut season with the Revs after scoring just one goal in 589 minutes across 17 league appearances (four starts).
While the chances may be slim, Charlie Davies said on Extratime that Qatar 2022 is front of mind for a 32-year-old striker with 42 goals in 115 international appearances, last featuring during the 2019 Gold Cup.
"For Jozy, I think he’s making this move to Puebla to say let me give myself one last chance," Davies said. "This is my last chance to score some goals and try to get on the plane to play in a World Cup."
USMNT window open?
To truly gain head coach Gregg Berhalter's attention, how many goals would Altidore need at Puebla to make a last-gasp case for USMNT consideration? Mike Lahoud set the bar quite high, with the Extratime crew noting few strikers other than FC Dallas star Jesus Ferreira seem like sure-things.
"I don’t think he gets on the plane," Lahoud said. "But I think 15, that’s the number I had in my head. Fifteen goals in Liga MX gets you on the plane, gets you in the conversation. If you then get on the plane and start performing in some of those tune-up matches, then the miraculous happens, the turnaround happens."
Crazier things have happened, the Extratime crew agreed, referencing the USMNT's wide-open 2010 World Cup striker pool that included Altidore and late inclusions from the MLS duo of Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley and, coincidentally, Herculez Gomez at Puebla.
But even then, there are longshot elements before Group B play begins on Nov. 21 vs. Wales.
"I just want to cautiously point out that he hasn’t played 800 minutes in a league season for four years," Tom Bogert said. "He’s played more than 1,000 minutes in a league season once in the last five years. It’s kind of more of a wait-and-see for me here. But I hope that things turn out well. It’d be really cool to have an American soccer legend playing well in Mexico."
Vrioni in, Altidore out
As for why it hasn't worked out in New England, Davies said he can see both sides of the equation. From Altidore's perspective, sporadic minutes likely left him feeling that he wasn't given a prolonged opportunity to make an impact. At the same time, he also arguably didn't maximize the chances he received.
"You used to be the DP, big name, starting on the national team, you’ve played World Cups and now all of a sudden you’re a guy who has to earn everything back, you have to fight for it," Davies said. "And that transition can be quite humbling and it’s scary for a lot of guys. It can also be one of those things where you look at it like I don’t have to do that, I’ve already proven myself. But realistically, it comes for everybody at some point where you are expected to prove yourself every single day in training, in matches."
New England signing Albania international forward Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus was rather telling, too. Vrioni is Buksa's DP replacement alongside Gustavo Bou, taking the No. 9 shirt Buksa occupied before heading to Ligue 1's Lens.
"Once they announced the signing of Vrioni, you knew Jozy’s numbers were over," Davies said. "It was done. It was time to move on."
Bogert added that Argentine side San Lorenzo were also in for Altidore's services, and the regained roster spot and salary cap relief could see New England move before the transfer window closes on Aug. 4.
"Maybe they get something else done," Bogert said.
For more MLS analysis, check out Extratime's latest episode here.