New England Soccer Today

Lost in the Shuffle?

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

By Scott Nicholls

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After 60 minutes against a tough-tackling Honduras side in 90 percent humidity Jozy Altidore could breathe a sigh of relief as he was replaced by Chris Wondolowski in Frisco, TX.

Altidore has been working his way back from a hamstring injury of late, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been very cautious with the U.S. Men’s National Team’s talisman.

“Jozy is coming from injury [so we] build him, play him, build him, and we hope this kind of gels more and more with every game” said the German at a press conference held Thursday evening ahead of the U.S.’s Gold Cup group A game versus Haiti on July 10th.

Because of the injury to Altidore’s hamstring, fans and pundits alike have turned a relatively blind eye to the Toronto FC strikers lack of goalscoring for the national team of late. The problem is maybe their collective eyes have been averted for too long, and their opinions warped by the U.S.’s success under Klinsmann.

The biggest question seems to be why is Jurgen Klinsmann sticking by a striker whom is reminiscent of Emile Heskey, more than he is Didier Drogba?

Altidore’s last goal in a competitive competition came four years ago against Guadeloupe in a 4-1 win at the 2011 Gold Cup. His last goal in a competitive match? Oct. 11, 2013 when he netted against Jamaica in the U.S.’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign.

With just 27 goals in 81 caps for the U.S. fans must sometimes wonder if Altidore really is their next big thing, despite being just 25 years old.

At age 25, Altidore has played 247 games in his career scoring just 84 goals, a record of a goal every 2.94 games and for the U.S., his record is exactly three games for every goal he has scored. Altidore isn’t quite Emile Heskey (a goal every 3.7 games for club teams through his age 26 season) but like Altidore Heskey was lauded as a player with “potential” for a number of years without really displaying an progression in his development.

Heskey’s best seasons came with Liverpool in the Premier League where he scored 60 goals in 223 appearances, his best season? 22 goals in 56 games (largely due to his inability to score in European competition).

If we look at Altidore’s career statistics they’re rather alarming, too.

Altidore has never displayed that he is a prolific goalscorer barring two seasons in Holland. The first of which he scored 20 in 52 games. The second? Thirty-one in 41 games. Surely by now he must have cracked how to score goals, we all thought — then came Sunderland.

Altidore mustered just three goals in 52 games for the mid-table English outfit, say what you want about “service and quality” but Sunderland have more quality in their team than AZ Alkmaar.

In-fact, take out his two seasons in Holland and Altidore’s career statistics look a lot more damning: 154 games, 33 goals. That’s a goal every 4.6 games — and that’s including the 7 in 12 games for Toronto FC in Major League Soccer this season thus far.

Is it time that Jurgen Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer looked to somebody else to be their talisman? The lure of Alitdore is primarily his size and strength, and conceivably has time to add a killer instinct to this being just 25. But there are strikers in the National Team set up who could offer more, and quickly.

Enter Aron Johnasson.

Aron Johnasson could be the best striker that Klinsmann refuses to use. Johansson inconceivably has just 12 caps to his name in a U.S. uniform thus far and is just a shade younger than Altidore who has 81. Both played in Holland at AZ Alkmaar briefly with Johansson netting 3 goals in 5 games alongside Jozy. Johansson went on to score another 36 goals in 66 games.

Altidore’s last two seasons (barring 2013/14 for Sunderland):

Goals per 90: 0.24
Assists per 90: 0.03
Chances Created: 1.20
Shot Accuracy: 68%
Pass Accuracy: 68%
Total Passes: 770

Johansson’s last two seasons:

Goals per 90: 0.57
Assists per 90: 0.22
Chances Created: 1.51
Shot Accuracy: 67%
Pass Accuracy: 77%
Total Passes: 1127

Johansson has arguably developed as an all-round contributor in his playing career than Jozy Altidore has. Johansson’s career strike rate is a goal every 2.48 games, largely due to his much younger years playing in the Finnish league. In-fact, Johansson has averaged 11.14 goals per full season over the course of his career.

The Icelandic-American was probably not expecting to be snubbed as much as he has been in June of 2013, when he posted this message on his Facebook page:

“I have decided to make myself eligible for the USA national football team. I was fortunate in that I could choose between playing for Iceland or the USA since I have dual citizenship. It was neither an easy nor hasty decision, because I was faced with two good national teams. I thank the coaches of Iceland for their interest in me and wish the Iceland national team all the best in the future.”

Back then the hype was all about how Johansson had made the U.S. pool at striker much, much, deeper; back then people talked about how Aron Johansson was what U.S. needed; back then Aron Johansson was the future.

Barely two years later, the song remains the same, this time about up-and-comers like Jordan Morris (yet to play at the professional level) and Bobby Wood (currently playing in the German second division).

Johansson could be in for a start versus a Haiti team that will pull no punches after their performance versus Panama in their first group game. The question is will it be enough to convince Klinsmann Johansson is the man he should be starting alongside Clint Dempsey going forward?

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