Jurgen Klinsmann said a fair amount about his frustrations with Jozy Altidore, the most stunning exclusion from the US national team’s roster announcement for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers, during a media conference call on Monday.
He also explained nearly as much about the decision by extolling the virtues of those who effectively took Altidore’s place, MLSers Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon.
“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, I mean maybe even over the last 14 months,” Klinsmann told reporters. “I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he's not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home and also in training.”
Many observers have been clamoring for red-hot Sounders hitman Johnson, who Klinsmann described as veteran of the national team system despite his long absence from its roster.
But few would’ve expected his call – or Gordon’s, even more so – to come at the expense of Altidore, one of the few American strikers with both the skills set seemingly preferred by the current technical staff and the consistent playing time in a top European league which has also been a stated priority under Klinsmann.
“We want to bring in Eddie and Alan because both are really strong in the air,” explained Klinsmann. “We expect two difficult games where the opponent will probably play more defensive and kind of get a lot of numbers in the box, or in front of their box, to play more defensively against us. So we need here and there to force things with crosses from the wings.
“I had more trust in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon.”
The coach has flirted with selection controversy on a number of occasions over his USMNT tenure, but nothing like this.
Preaching the value of playing in top overseas leagues and the importance of strong club form as recently as last week, then leaving out the co-scoring leader of the Dutch Eredivisie when the national team has struggled to find the net in this round of qualifying, Klinsmann is making a bold stand with Altidore – and surely going to great lengths to prove a point.
“Certain things went on during the May-June camp,” said the German-American coach, offering little in the way of details about what would seem to have been substantial transgressions on Altidore’s part. Not only has he been yanked from the starting lineup, he has apparently been categorized, on some level at least, to be a negative presence in the squad.
“It's important [the players] have their starting spot [at club level], but it doesn't mean that coming to national team that things are for granted," he added. "That's as simple as it is. The decision not to call Jozy in is based on our experience with him. The door remains open with Jozy, but we need to make sure we take care of these two games.”