HARRISON, N.J. – Jozy Altidore’s not sure where the storyline got started, but he wants to be sure nobody gets it twisted.
No, Altidore hasn’t scored in US colors since finding the back of the net against Jamaica last October and his first season with Sunderland was a disappointment at best, but that doesn’t mean his confidence has suffered in the process.
And it definitely doesn’t mean he’s down on himself after another goalless outing against Turkey on Sunday afternoon in the US’ 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
“Everybody is so worried about my confidence. My confidence is fine, my man,” Altidore told reporters. “It’s not going to change whether I score a hat trick or don’t score at all. I’m fine.”
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To hear his teammates, Jurgen Klinsmann and even the opposing head coach tell it, Altidore is more than fine.
On an afternoon in which the 24-year-old took a beating holding up the ball and occupying the visiting backline – delivering plenty of blows himself, it must be said – even Turkey head coach Fatih Terim took the opportunity to single out Altidore for praise in his postgame press conference.
Minutes later, Klinsmann did the same, pointing out the effect Altidore’s combination play and physicality had on the game, even admitting he tried to bring a little levity to the scoreless streak before the match began.
“What we all wish is obviously he puts the ball in the net. I was joking with him about that before the game,” Klinsmann said. “Overall, again a very energetic performance. He keeps a whole backline busy and that’s what the other coach sees.
“… We’re waiting for it. I wouldn’t mind if the goal comes against Ghana right away. No, it is the Jozy we want to see. He will kind of sooner or later break through with goals. You got to work for it and you’ve got to stay hungry and grind it out and sooner or later it’s time and boom the ball is in the net.”
And how did Altidore take Klinsmann’s locker-room jokes? In stride, of course.
“He’s always light and funny and just tries to ease the mood for everybody,” he said when asked about his head coach’s pregame pep talk. “At times it can be difficult when we all have the World Cup in the back of our mind.”
More important than any goal scored in a friendly is how Altidore plays once on Brazilian soil.
It seems a foregone conclusion that he will be Klinsmann’s starter against Ghana in Natal on June 16. Even if the goals don’t flow against Nigeria in the American’s final Send Off Series match, Altidore remains the same player who scored in five straight for the US in 2013, including a headline-grabbing hat trick against fellow qualifiers Bosnia and Herzegovina last August.
With Clint Dempsey next to him, the pair are the US’ most dynamic attacking duo – Altidore’s pace and physical ability complimenting his captain’s guile and opportunism.
After another game without a goal – but plenty to build on – Dempsey’s message to Altidore is simple.
“Just enjoy your play,” he said. “We see he’s enjoying his play. He’s going out there creating problems. He’s getting good looks. And he’s just a little unlucky. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck on your side as long as you’re creating chances and he’s creating chances. So it’s just a matter of time.”
The hope, of course, is that time comes sooner rather than later. Just don’t assume Altidore’s broken up by the goal drought that’s afflicted him since 2013.
“It doesn’t matter how I play as long as we win,” he said.