GUATEMALA CITY — Jozy Altidore’s three-week spell away from the national team cost him his spot in the US lineup, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday afternoon, on the eve of the team’s final match of this camp against Guatemala (10 pm ET, pay-per-view, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
Altidore missed the first two weeks of camp when his Dutch club team, AZ Alkmaar, refused to release him until the FIFA mandated date late in May. Altidore’s season ended on May 5, and according to the coach he was unable to keep himself in top shape in the interim.
PREVIEW: Guatemala vs. USA
“He was not training with the team for three weeks, we went through that, we tested him, we have it all on paper,” said Klinsmann. “There are reasons, I can show you. I can film it in training.”
Altidore has made only two brief substitute appearances in the last three games for which he was available, including a 10-minute run-out against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday. In the meantime, Herculez Gomez, fresh off a club title with Mexican team Santos Laguna, came into camp and won the starting striker spot.
Labeling AZ’s decision to not release Altidore disappointing, Klinsmann was careful not to lay full blame on the player, suggesting that an individual working on his own will always have a hard time maintaining the form necessary to play a role on the national team.
“It is very difficult,” Klinsmann said. “It’s not the same as when you burn every day in a team situation, five-vs.-five. You start the day with a little sweat on an empty stomach. You’re on your own, 21 or 22, and you say, ’OK I’m going to do my workout now 20 minutes, 25 minutes and I’m good,' it’s not enough. You can’t just leave it up to workouts, it’s not possible.”
The coach chalked the situation up to another learning experience in the young player’s career, noting that Altidore has made a great deal of progress over the past season, his first in the Dutch league.
“I see him more mature, he thinks far more,” said the coach. “He knows it takes far more than just talent to become consistent. He’s had a much more consistent season, because he scored 'x' amount of goals, and being able to show it.
“He will go through a lot more,” Klinsmann said. “He’s still got a lot more learning ahead of him, and he buys into that. It’s not coming overnight but he’s on the right path. He was a little bit frustrated because he didn’t play yet from the beginning, but it’s all because of where he’s at [physically].”