USMNT boss Berhalter insists Altidore is still most talented striker option

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U.S. national team head coach Gregg Berhalter has said that Jozy Altidore is still the team's most talented option at forward.

Altidore has been a prominent figure for the U.S. for years, having earned 115 caps thus far and scored 42 goals. 

The 30-year-old has continued to find the back of the net in MLS as well, having reached double figures in goals for Toronto FC in four of the past five seasons.

Though many may have expected another figure, such as Werder Bremen's Josh Sargent, to have emerged as the top option at striker for the USMNT by now, Berhalter has made it clear that he will continue to rely heavily on Altidore.

“What I would say is just looking at the striker position in general, I think you have Jozy Altidore who is probably still the most talented that we have in that position, but he’s got fitness issues,” Berhalter said on ExtraTime.

“Let’s call it what it is. He’s not fit to play 90 minutes, he’s not fit to play at the level we need him to. But he’s still an amazingly talented player, so our goal there is to keep working with him, working with the club to get him up to where he needs to be and hopefully he can get there.

"But we’re not sure with that, we’re not sure.”

Another key option up top for the U.S. in recent years has been Gyasi Zardes, who has netted nine goals with the Columbus Crew this season to place him second on the MLS scoring chart. 

Though Berhalter admits that Zardes doesn't have the same talent level as Altidore, he admires the 29-year-old's work-rate and ability to find the net on a consistent basis.

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“Gyasi is a guy whose fitness levels are off the charts and he’s scoring goals and you know exactly what he’s going to give you in every single game,” Berhalter said.

“He doesn't have the talent, per se, as Jozy, but in a certain type of system, he’s a really effective goalscorer and a hard worker. So I think he’s doing a great job with Columbus this year.”

The USMNT has played just once in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but was drawn alongside Canada this week in the group phase of the 2021 Gold Cup, which is scheduled to kick off in July.