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The odd career of Jozy Altidore: From USMNT phenom to Liga MX bench-warmer

9:34 AM EST 11/21/22
Jozy Altidore USMNT Puebla GFX
The striker is still beloved in the United States but a once-potential superstar ultimately stalled because of injuries and poor form.

When then-USMNT manager Bob Bradley named Jozy Altidore to his 2010 World Cup squad, it wasn't an empty gesture to give the 20-year-old a front-row view from the sidelines.

Bradley believed Altidore was already good enough to play a major role.

The coach saw the youngest member of his team as the missing piece, a legitimate striker who could link perfectly with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.

Altidore started each of the USMNT's four matches at the tournament, playing 355 minutes. But he failed to fully live up to the monumental early expectations.

He didn't score or notch an assist.

Since then, seemingly every time Altidore appeared ready to become a consistent force, injury or poor form saw him crash him back to square one.

Recurrent muscular problems in his legs struck at the worst possible moments – including the beginning of the 2014 World Cup, when his hamstring failed him against Ghana.

Long goal droughts at Hull City and Sunderland, meanwhile, dimmed his star power.

There were times the forward delivered on his promise in spurts. He set a record for American internationals in Europe with a 23-goal season at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands in 2012-13.

He scored in a record five consecutive USMNT matches – a hot spell that culminated in a hat-trick against Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2013.

"We see a Jozy that is enjoying himself," Jurgen Klinsmann said after that comeback victory.

"He went through a lot of maturing elements over last couple of years... But he really understands now how to zoom in when it counts.

"He makes everyone around him a better player. It's real enjoyable, it's really fun."

The positivity didn't last, however, as Altidore had his Brazil World Cup dreams dashed 23 minutes into the opening match. He never got another chance to play in the tournament.

After a handful of quality campaigns at Toronto FC, further fitness problems and wobbly form eventually brought him to an unlikely late-career setting.

He spent this fall on the bench at Mexican club Puebla in Liga MX, where he was sent on loan by the New England Revolution. Six appearances, no starts.

A strange outcome for a player who had La Liga and Premier League goals to his name before he turned 20.

His loan is up at the end of 2022 and it's unclear what his next move with be – or if there even is a next move.

“Regarding Jozy Altidore, his season will likely end this weekend and we will have continued discussions with his agent," New England coach Bruce Arena said last month.

"I know he has an interest in perhaps going elsewhere and we'll work with him to see if that's possible."

Like midfielder Michael Bradley, another key part of the USMNT in the early 2010s, Altidore was iced out of international squad contention soon after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

He last appeared for the Stars and Stripes in the 2019 Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico.

Altidore will be OK, though.

As the USMNT departed for this year's World Cup in Qatar, he was exploring the world with his family. He shared a picture to Instagram of him hiking with his son.

He is widely loved in the U.S. regardless of his up-and-down career, and he will be watching the USMNT closely in the coming month, rooting for the squad to succeed.

"Can’t wait to watch our boys back on the world stage!!" he wrote on Twitter. "Congratulations to the 26 players selected. LFG!!!!"