MIAMI - Jurgen Klinsmann may want to meet with Jozy Altidore and explain to his young striker exactly what he expects when it comes to fitness ahead of major competitions.
The U.S. national team head coach had elected to use Herculez Gomez ahead of Altidore for the first two World Cup qualifiers of 2012, explaining that the AZ striker was not match fit after missing three weeks of training camp following his long club season.
But Altidore seems to disagree with Klinsmann's decision to remove him from his usual starting spot. He also appears to be confused as to where the fitness rumors are coming from.
"Fitness? I'm feeling fine," Altidore said after the World Soccer Masters match last weekend. "There are always reports, but I don't know where it's coming from. But what are you going to do?"
The reports are coming from Klinsmann himself, who told Goal.com's Mike Slane and three other traveling reporters in Guatemala earlier this month that Altidore needed time to catch up to his teammates, particularly Gomez, whom the coach described as "really competitive."
“You have to actually show within those [practice] sessions that you’re bigger, stronger, faster than the other guys to make a difference,” Klinsmann said. “If you don’t do that for two or three weeks, it takes you usually another five or six weeks to get into that shape.”
Altidore has been the presumed starter at striker for U.S. since the end of 2009 but Klinsmann described Gomez as "being hungry and sharper and competitive" in his persuit of the starting gig.
Gomez has scored two goals in the past three matches for the U.S. Altidore, meanwhile, had a promising first year with his Dutch club, scoring 15 goals in 34 Eredivisie matches. At 22 years old, the former Red Bulls starlet proved he still has plenty of potential.
"I think it's great and it gives us options. It makes everyone better and makes you want to get on the field that much more," Altidore said.
"Whatever happens, whether I play or not, it's always an honor to be involved with the national team. You always have to be professional."
However, Altidore is hoping to feature for the U.S. in its next game against heated rival Mexico. Despite the match being a friendly, Altidore has called it the biggest match of the year.
"It's going to be a fun match. It's going to be a game that we take a lot of pride in and it's the biggest game on the calendar for all of us," Altidore said. "So it's always a huge game for us, regardless of whether or not it's a friendly. "