111412_altidorejozy_isi_usnattq081010064 Tony Quinn/isiphotos.com
Direct from Russia

Jozy Altidore Returns to USMNT in a Veteran Role

The forward is back with the American team after a brief absence during the last round of World Cup qualifying and can play an important role for the United States squad.
BY Noah Davis Posted
November 13, 2012
10:58 AM
KRASNODAR, Russia—Don't look now, but despite being just a week or so removed from his 23rd birthday, Jozy Altidore is already a veteran on the United States national team.

The American forward has won the fourth-most caps of any United States player in Russia, behind only Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard, and Michael Bradley. He also has more goals than everyone except Bocanegra. Altidore isn't an elder statesman, but his experience combined with his youth can help him bridge the gap between a generation of older players and the younger ones like Josh Gatt, Joe Gyau, and Mix Diskerud.

"I think it helps with some of those young guys because I've been around for awhile," he told American Soccer Now. "I'm also excited as a fan. I've followed a couple of them going through and I've seen some of their games. I'm really excited by what they have to offer. I hope they can bring that here. It's not easy, you know? It's difficult making that transition, but they have it in them. They are here for a reason."

Tim Howard believes Altidore can play that role, but only if he wants to do so.

"It depends on the player," the goalkeeper said. "Some players don't want that responsibility. I'm not saying [Altidore] does or doesn't, but some players want to focus on their own game and get that right. Whether Jozy can or wants to bridge the gap between the older players and the younger players, that's for him to decide. He's young, but he has a lot of experience and a big personality. All of those things are positive. How he wants to use it is up to him. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer."

Despite Altidore's sustained success at AZ Alkmaar, Jurgen Klinsmann notably did not call the forward for the last round of World Cup qualifying. The coach wanted his charge to improve his ability to make a difference in every game. While the forward is quick to point out that the rift between coach and player was exaggerated, he did receive Klinsmann's message.

"I understand that sometimes it's not good enough. As a player, sometimes there's nothing you can do about it, but at the same time, you have to find a way," he said. "I believe that I'm a guy that has some ability. I have to take it upon myself to try to impose myself on some games better. It's a learning process. I'm not a finished product. There are things I have to work on. I think I can do better."

Altidore showed enough to earn another call from the American coach, and he is likely to receive many more in the future. The New Jersey native continues to improve in nearly all facets of his game—witness his excellent left-footed strike over the weekend—and will likely see time against Russia. It's all part of the development process for the young talent who is experienced beyond his years.

"I did something new [this year]. I tried to make goals for myself. One of mine starting in the summer was to try to be consistent for club and country. It's not easy, especially when you come to the national team and you have one day to train. There are a lot of ways you can make excuses for a bad performance," he said.

"For me, I'm trying to mentally be stronger and understand that this is the job. I have to go on Wednesday and if I'm called, I need to be consistent—to be how I've been the whole season [with AZ]—and help my team win. It's just something that I'm trying to build, to try to mentally get stronger in that regard. If I do that, I think I can be a guy that can contribute for club and country."

Well, that sounds like a mighty mature attitude, now doesn't it?

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