DONATE TO HAITI RELIEF: Support is still needed.
Despite what your opinions of Jozy Altidore’s ability to find the back of the net, there is no question that the past year has shown the coming of age of Jozy Altidore as a player and the maturation of the American striker as a person.
As a US Soccer fan, I can’t think of another player that has garnered the same press as Jozy and is so positively polarizing as a beacon of the future of US Soccer since Landon Donovan and maybe Landon Donovan alone.
What is so impressive is that Altidore has earned the buzz around him this year without nearly reaching the upper echelon of his talent yet. I’m not quite sure you can actually say that about Landon Donovan; did his accomplishments peak in 2002? That’s another discussion for another time.
To put it succinctly on Altidore, we’ll revisit our Editor’s Note from our March Boarding Series piece:
It’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed with the composure of Altidore. This is a young man who in the last year has had to switch leagues and cultures, watch as his good friend and strike partner battled a life-threatening accident and experience his native land ravaged by natural disaster. I’m not sure I can put all of those three in perspective enough as a lay person or as a writer. Oh and in his spare time, he’s come of age as an impact player and is now indispensable to the USMNT. And we all know how old he is. If you haven’t given to Haiti relief…..
Today, we felt it appropriate to look back on the year of Jozy. Why today?
It was 365 days ago that Bob Bradley unwrapped his Big Jeezy present in a big way as Altidore deposited a three-pack in the back of the net against Trinidad & Tobago. Altidore made history, the youngest American to record a hat trick in international play. This just a few days after Altidore subbed in against El Salvador and got his 1st away goal for the national senior side.
From there, the year went a little like this:
August 5th, 2009: Villareal loans Jozy Altidore to then-Phil Brown’s Hull City Tigers. Do you remember Fulham was rumored to be in the running? Looks like Fulham bet big on Zamora being healthy and it’s mostly worked out for them. Still a tandem of Zamora and Jozy with Deuce playing behind them? Nice.
August 21st, 2009: After a H1N1 scare, Jozy is pronounced fit to join Hull and TSG wonders if the “set-up couldn’t be sweeter.”
August 22nd, 2009: Jozy enters in the 60th minute against Bolton and his first touch, an over-the-head volley, leads to an assist on a Kamil Ghilas goal. (August 23th, 2009) TSG wonders, with all the stateside press and excitement around Jozy, if this is one of the bigger American EPL moments.
August 25th, 2009, Altidore scores his first goal for Hull City in a 3-1 win over Southend United in the second round of the Football League Cup.
September 5th, 2009: On duty for the USA, Altidore slams home an authoritative header for the go ahead score in the USMNT’s 2-1 win over El Salvador in the World Cup qualifier at Rio Tinto. Altidore and Charlie Davies break out the stanky leg.
October begins the first valley in Altidore’s otherwise positive trending year….
October 4th, 2009: Jozy is screwed into the bench by then-Hull City Manager Phil Brown who’s relying on veterans. TSG mocks a call between USMNT coach Bill Bradley and Brown.
October 10th, 2009: The USMNT qualifies for the World Cup in the civil unrest of Honduras, but Conor Casey is the surprise starter that shines alongside Charlie Davies.
October 14th, 2009: Less than 48 hours after Charlie Davies’ car accident, Jozy Altidore plays an inspired 90+ minutes of soccer at Washington’s RFK in support of his fallen friend and strike partner. Big Jeezy wins the TSG Golden Shinguard for his efforts.
October 24th, 2009: Just ten days later, JZA arrives late for Hull’s match against Portsmouth and then comments about his unexcused absence on Twitter. Altidore is scolded for both offenses by Phil Brown. It would appear for nearly two months after the episode that Altidore is mired in Brown’s doghouse.
November 2nd, 2009: Jozy vows not to be late to practice….even with a herd of sheep blocking the road to work.
November 25th, 2009: Although Jozy starts nearly every game for Hull in November, it’s a quiet month for the American striker. It thankfully ends with a 3-2 win over Tim Howard and Everton, though Big T stops a point blank Jozy shot in this one.
December 20th, 2009: December represents the nadir or Jozy’s coming of age year. With Jimmy Bullard injured and out of the line-up, Phil Brown sends JZA to the bench in favor or a faster striking team from the wings.
December 26th, 2009: Just when true playing concerns were starting to fester, Phil Brown states in an interview:
“Jozy’s a great talent. He went to Villarreal at early age and didn’t get a lot of run out. I’m really looking forward to him in the New Year. He’s got a lot of stuff to learn. I’m hoping that his loan extends beyond this year. Once Jozy gets time in the Premiership and more matches, he’ll be able to showcase his talents.”
December 27th, 2009: Right on the heels of Brown’s comment, Altidore gets his first start what feels like since his time at Red Bull, despite both English and American pundits and fans calling Jozy a “disappointment,” TSG argues that Jozy had a good game. This is the first game, where Altidore is used explicitly and almost exclusively in the “Heskey role,” the target striker role.
January 12th, 2010: On Tuesday, January 12th, a massive earthquake rocks the island of Haiti, Jozy’s homeland. Altidore is composed as he pleas for support on Twitter. He’s removed from team play for the bulk of the month as he attempts to help locate his family.
January 30th, 2010: Altidore notches an assist against Marcus Hahnemann and Wolverhampton in a 2-2 draw. He is beginning to thrive in the target striker role.
February 2nd, 2010: Altidore holds his own as he goes up against his June 12th, 2010 foil, John Terry.
February 6th 2010: In perhaps the best day for USMNT soccer fans of 2010 to date, Landon Donovan makes his Liverpool derby debut. Altidore outdoes him by causing havoc for Kolo Toure and friends and knocking home his first goal of 2010 as the Tigers trample Manchester City. JOLAZO!
February 18th 2010: Jozy struts in Fashion for Relief to benefit Haiti.
Interlude: February 26th: TSG explains why Jozy works better up top with a player in support.
March 3, 2010: The first true USMNT game of the year: the much-anticipated measuring friendly against the Netherlands.
In a game where the United States’ offense sat dormant for nearly 70 minutes, Altidore’s work rate was impressive as at least one and many times two defenders were draped on Jozy as he was receiving service or attempting to create an opportunity. Big Jeezy earns TSG’s Golden Shinguard for best performance.
March 28th, 2010: Jozy is named to Sky Sports team of the week for his performance in Hull City’s 2-0 win over Fulham. Altidore earned a critical penalty that Jimmy Bullard converted.
The Year of Jozy, revisited. Impressive for a 20-year-old.