Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Jozy Altidore: Hat Trick

But the American team wants you to not get to excited about the phenom.  Here's the AP's quote from Clint Dempsey:

“On the first goal, I thought it was good movement by our team, a great ball in by Landon [Donovan]. All he had to do was put his foot in on it,” Dempsey said. “On his third goal, you know, he was a little bit lucky, getting under the keeper. I think the most impressive thing about Jozy tonight was his second goal. It just showed that it’s a world-class finish. And it’s just good that a player at his age is able to do those type of things.”

I didn't see the third goal, but I saw the first two, and here's my take.

Dempsey is absolutely right on the nature of the second goal--it was a world class piece of work.  Although it should be mentioned that the Trinidad and Tobago squad bit on some fakes that other teams, like Germany, won't bite on.  It was not just a great finish by Jozy; it was also a great piece of work from Landon Donovan.  Donovan charged a ball sent towards him on the left side, his defender charged along with him, and Donovan just let the ball roll by them both, curved around, and found Altidore about 20 yards out, just inside the left post.  What made Altidore's finish special was that he faked a shot, but without overselling it, pushed past his defender and buried the ball into the far right corner from just inside the 18.  It was a nice, controlled piece of attacking.  He didn't send the ball over the goal, he didn't drill it into his defender.  He didn't dribble into the keeper.  In short, he finished like US attackers rarely finish--with poise.

I'm going to take a bit of issue with Dempsey's assessment of the first goal.  Even though he is correct--Altidore did just have to put a foot out there.  But that's demeaning the youngster's effort and touch, I think.  For the following enumerated reasons:

1.  Altidore got loose on the back post.  Brian Ching doesn't get loose on the back post, because he isn't fast, or quick, or sneaky.  Ching might get fouled on the back post, but he doesn't get open.  The number of US strikers who lose their defenders on the back post simply because Donovan is making a run on the near sideline is a small number, and the players on that list are often short-lived.

2.  Altidore got to a hard-driven bouncing, well-crossed ball in the box.  Brian Ching (or Kenny Edwards, or whatever bag of shit gets sent out there for the next friendly) could not have gotten to that ball.  

3.  Altidore got his foot on the ball, and directed it not just to the goal, but to a corner.  Dempsey has some chutzpah, relegating that to Standard Operating Procedure, given the number of sure goals I've seen him put wide of the net, or over the goal, or into the arms of a goalkeeper, from point blank range.  Getting your foot on the ball at speed is an art, and I'm not sure Dempsey has exhibited enough of that artfulness to dismiss it when another, more talented player displays it.

US Soccer is being very careful to not set up Altidore to be the next Eddie Johnson.  I applaud them for that.  But those of us who have seen both of those guys play see a clear difference.  Eddie was all speed and breakaways.  Altidore, while presumably capable of that, operates in traffic with a confidence that Johnson never showed.

So, good, tamp down expectations.  But, US coach Bob Bradley is being stupid when he says this (again from the AP):  “He’s a player that, you know, we have known for a while is going to be a big part of our team going forward, but things need to be earned. Things need to come at the right time."

Um, Bob--you don't have a great veteran striker.  Brian Ching?  Kenny fucking Edwards?  The Ghost of Eric Wynalda?  Shut up about what needs to be earned at the right time and all that bullshit.  In back-to-back games, Altidore has saved the US from losing to El Salvador (for fuck's sake) and put away three goals against Trinidad and Tobago--any one of those goals could have been scored by another American player, but there is not another player on the US squad who could have scored all three of them, except maybe Landon Donovan (and he was busy assisting on all three).  

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