Say it ain’t so Jozy Altidore. You made it to Spain and Villarreal but now…
To say something against Jozy Altidore is probably heresy in the United States soccer community. He’s the golden child after all, but unfortunately, he’s hit a bit of a dry patch. Jozy is a player I love, so I write this with the hope that his slump is very short lived and he’s loaned out to another club if he’s not going to get game time consistently with Villarreal.
New: With Toronto in New York town to play NYCFC, we took Jozy to a local soccer bar and talked through his long and winding road as a professional and his hopes for Haiti in Copa America.
Jozy & the Jets Altidore had his first few starts for Villarreal and his club sits in sixth place in La Liga. Less than a year ago he was suiting up for the Red Bulls of the MLS. Once more, he’s scored a goal for Villarreal when he came on in the late stages of a game. His first touch on the pitch resulted in the goal. He’s then gone on and played a few full 90-minute matches, with varying success. He has proved to be a handful for opposing teams with his size and speed. Yet, he’s appeared a bit too erratic and doesn’t keep possession that well.
I know Altidore is only 18 but lately he’s been in and out of the team, and at times on the bench and others not even suiting up for the game. In the match against Barcelona, whom I’m sure Altidore was dying to make the bench or get on the pitch for, he didn’t even dress. But again, he is only 18 years old and his future is bright.
But sometimes it’s harder for a younger player to deal with playing and then not playing. There’s no consistency and there’s nothing to build off of. Young players are more fragile.
If you look at a player like Bojan over at Barcelona, who’s far well advanced compared to Altidore, and much more skilled and talented, though Jozy has both physical strength and speed, Bojan has had games where he has lost his confidence too.
I’ve seen Bojan lose the ball in a series of plays, and begin to put his head down. Pep Guardiola tried to let him play through it, but in the end took him off. On the bench Bojan had his head in his hands like the world was going to end. Sometimes, that’s what young players do, they make too much out of a bad stretch of play. One thing Pep did though was let Bojan take the penalty kick in the game next week, I’m sure he did this to help boost his confidence. Pep and Barcelona know how to take care of their young players. Does Villarreal?
I think Altidore may be happier and develop faster if he’s loaned out to another team. That way he’ll be playing all the time. If there’s no loan then Villarreal will have to play Jozy on a regular basis and do some things to boost his confidence, just give him some minutes towards the end of the game and help him build off of that. The fact of the matter is, Jozy needs games.
Jozy does seem a bit clumsy at times on the ball in the central part of the field, at times appearing like he’s sure if he should lay it off or try to make something happen. I think this is just him putting pressure on himself and forcing things. Jozy is a player who loves to play, you can tell he does by the smile on this face.
I just don’t want to see Jozy lose his confidence. He’s not going the way of Benny Feilhaber, who I think is a fantastic player and should be cradled back into the United States national team fold, but Jozy could fall into a unnecessary funk. I don’t want to see it happen. The kid’s too good of a kid. He’s too good of a player. He’s too important for the United States national team.