This is an editorial by TSG’s Jay Bell.
Jozy Altidore opened up his season for his new employers, AZ Alkmaar, early (so so very early) this morning with only his third league goal in the past 18 months. The commentators continuously said it was his first league goal since scoring against Manchester City in February of 2010, but Altidore also scored for Bursaspor against Antalysaspor in April this Spring.
Altidore’s Jolazo™ was the third goal in a 3-1 victory over Dutch power PSV Eindhoven. It was a home game, but the performance proves that there is plenty of room for optimism for AZ this season and in the future. Maarten Martens scored a peach of a goal early in the match. The Belgian winger is in the prime of his career at the age of 27. The 35 yard rocket to put AZ up 2-0 came from a 22 year old defender, Nick Viergever, who had never before scored a professional goal.
Altidore entered in the 65′ for Ruud Boymans, 21, soon after he seemed to be pointing to his ankle after pressing into PSV’s corner. Altidore displayed maturity on his goal with intelligent off-the-ball movement rarely seen during his stints with Hull City and Villarreal. Altidore, (still just) 21, slowed his run, accelerated and cut behind his defender to beat the goalkeeper to Adam Maher’s cross. Maher, only 18, was one of three substitutes utilized by AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek.
The two 21-year olds, Altidore and Boymans, will look to compete for playing time as the striker in the Dutch 4-3-3. All of AZ’s players Sunday were aged 21-27, with the lone outlier being Maher. Verbeek may have already molded the young AZ squad into a title contender.
Verbeek was in charge of Heerenveen during Michael Bradley’s time in the Netherlands. Heerenveen was an attacking force, scoring 88 goals in only 34 matches (they also gave up 48 goals). In his final year, Bradley scored 16 goals in the Eredivisie and 20 in all competitions. With AZ’s attacking personnel, they could be in position to mimic that attacking prowess.
Altidore’s performance in the Gold Cup, albeit expected against the level of competition, and now an early goal for AZ after returning from an injury will get plenty of American fans ready to call for Altidore’s career ascension. Optimism is warranted, but enthusiasm should be tempered.
Jozy has done this before.
After scoring for the US in the Olympics against the Netherlands, Altidore hit the ground running for Villarreal. The 18-year old showed energy and an aggressive attacking verve in his first appearance with the Yellow Submarine. The young striker found it hard to get minutes for the Spanish club, but notched his first league goal against Athletic Bilbao in a 4-1 victory.
It would be his only goal of the season before a disastrous loan spell to Xerez and a toe injury saw him glued to the bench or the stands in the Spanish second division in the Spring of 2009.
After his goal against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup, Altidore was loaned to Hull City for the 2009-2010 season. Altidore notched his first assist for Hull with his very first touch of the ball in his debut against Bolton. Three days later he scored on a low, 30-yard free kick against Southend in the Carling Cup. After that, it was rough seas for Altidore and Hull City.
He had plenty of highs and lows that season, including a man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea, a red card against Sunderland for a headbutt in his final match for Hull and his only league goal of the season against Manchester City.
Altidore impressed Villarreal following the 2010 FIFA World Cup and convinced his employers to keep him for the season. He found it tough to find the back of the net for Villarreal, mostly in Europa League matches. He had his opportunities, but scored his only two goals in two matches against Polideportivo Ejido in the Copa Del Rey.
Altidore was loaned to Bursaspor in the winter transfer window and started immediately. Altidore delivered some riveting performances, with the best coming a week after one of his most disappointing international matches against Paraguay in Nashville. After that, Altidore saw his playing time diminish, likely due to some awkward contractual/financial disputes.
Now, here we are again. Another Jolazo™ has been scored for yet another new team. This time it appears that Altidore is smarter, more mature and playing for a team that is firmly invested in his future. Its going to be hard for American fans not to get all giddy inside thinking about what might be this season.
Patience is advised. Altidore is prone to hot starts. Sustained success through a full Eredivisie season could do wonders for Altidore’s confidence, skill and his career.