The U.S. midfielder maintains support for the forward, who has struggled to score on the international stage despite lighting up the Eredivisie with a record-setting campaign.WASHINGTON -- The U.S. national team's attacking inefficiency has long plagued Jurgen Klinsmann side, but one player in particular has found himself under the microscope for not being able to bag goals in bunches.
Forward Jozy Altidore's drought remains the most pronounced and flummoxing, considering his form on the club level. In the midst of turning in an American abroad-record 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar, with goals being scored every which way, the criticisms for his inability to find the back of the net on the international stage have grown with each game.
Even though the spotlight is on Altidore's international scoring slump, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, upon his inclusion in camp Friday after playing in the Coppa Italia final for Roma earlier in the week, says it is more of a team-wide problem to solve than just an individual Altidore issue.
"I think as a team it's just now trying to find a better way where we have the ball, a better rhythm, trying to take, at times, some of the possession that we have and turn it into a little bit more where we're producing a little more danger, where we're putting the other team on the back foot," Bradley said prior to the USA's training session at American University. "Obviously those are all easy things to talk about, so for us just going forward as we try to move ourselves along that's something that has to be in the back of our minds."
With 13 goals in 56 caps, Altidore is the fourth-leading scorer among the U.S. players on the current roster. Bradley acknowledged that even though Altidore is just 23, he has been through a lot on the international stage and knows that he can contribute more than just scoring despite the pressure to tally in a U.S. jersey for the first time since November 2011. For instance, against Costa Rica in a March World Cup qualifier, Altidore played a vital part in the run-up to Clint Dempsey's game-winning goal.
"I think Jozy by now is a big player on this team," Bradley said. "He's a leader, he's been on the field on a lot of tough days and a lot of hard days. He knows what it's like. He knows there are going to be times when there's not as many chances coming and when we're going to rely on his ability to run and fight and be a presence and be a handful.
"At the same time it's up to us, it's some of the other attacking players to make sure now that we're still finding him in good areas and making sure that we're getting him the ball in spots that he's able to be dangerous. There's a lot of things that goes into it."
Altidore was provided early service in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to Belgium, with one chance in particular off a cross from Dempsey, appearing as if he'd be able to turn and put a shot on frame. He was unable to find the back of the net, though, and was taken off at halftime after reportedly not feeling well. Altidore remains a vital cog in the U.S. attack, and Bradley has his support behind him, hoping that he can maintain doing the complementary parts of being an effective forward -- providing hold-up play, occupying defenders with physicality, making wise runs, setting up others -- before the goals start to reappear.
"Look, forwards, goals come in bunches," Bradley said. "At times you go on these little runs where now you feel like chances are coming and balls are going in the back of the net even if you're not always taking them perfectly or even if you're not making perfect contact. And you go through other times when you feel like you're not getting any chances, even when you take a chance the way you want the goalie is making a good save or you're shooting just wide.
"He understands that. Anyone who makes their living scoring goals understands that that's the reality of it. The important thing for Jozy is that he knows and understands that still his contribution on days even when he doesn't score, it's so important for our team."