One of the things that always bothers me about how most US soccer journalists cover the sport is that they always seem to focus on the positives. If Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore or any other American scores a goal in Europe, you can guarantee there’ll be an article and video of the goal, with the journalist or blogger practically high-fiving the accomplishment. But when they fail to live up to expectations, the silence among US soccer scribes is particularly deafening.
Two examples where the sub-par performances of USMNT players in Europe are conveniently ignored are Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. While Dempsey is currently on loan at Fulham and has been putting in fair but uneventful performances in a struggling side, his poor 2012/13 season at Tottenham Hotspur had been largely ignored except for his goals against Manchester United.
Dempsey’s season at Spurs was a frustrating one for both player and supporters, who never saw the best out of the American attacking midfielder — but you rarely heard that from the mainstream reporters.
Another American who has been frustrating to watch as of late is Jozy Altidore. After having a record-breaking season at AZ Alkmaar, Altidore has been a flop at Sunderland despite both Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet putting a lot of faith in the American by continuing to play him.
It’s time to stop making excuses for Altidore, and to realize that he isn’t cut out to perform at the highest level in club soccer. In his 14 league appearances for Sunderland (7 of which have been as a substitute), he has scored one goal. But more worryingly for Sunderland and USMNT supporters is the fact that Altidore is not only not scoring, but his performances have been poor.
So poor in fact that this is how one British newspaper rated his performance against non-league side Kidderminster last week in the FA Cup, a game in which Altidore started as striker:
The criticism of Altidore’s performances this season have been growing among local broadcasters. talkSPORT’s Graham Courtney, especially, has been a vocal critic. As the season has dragged on and Poyet continues to play the American striker, Courtney can’t understand why he’s still in the starting XI.
Altidore has missed a couple of gilt-edged chances to score to put his name on the score sheet this season, but more worryingly has been the way that the Sunderland supporters (and his teammates) have been getting on the player’s back particularly when the chips are down and Altidore has been losing possession in the middle of the pitch and making errant passes.
Now it seems that Gus Poyet’s patience in Altidore has run out. Sunderland today finalized the signing of Argentine striker Ignaccio Scocco on a 2.5-year contract from Internacional. The 28-year old striker will compete against Altidore for the starting striker position while Steven Fletcher has returned from injury to try to score goals to keep Sunderland up this season.
While Sunderland have made it into the League Cup Final against Manchester City, Altidore’s role in getting the club there was minimal. Too often this season he’s been invisible on the pitch. His finishing is below average, his passing is poor and he’s not been able to hold the ball up as well as you would think given his strong upper body.
Altidore’s time is running out to turn around his and Sunderland’s league form. With the arrival of Scocco, the worrying sign is that Altidore may not get much playing time in the run-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
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