If we can put aside all the standard debating points regarding Jozy Altidore, indulge me in sharing three things I know for certain about the AZ Alkmaar and U.S. international forward.
No. 1: I like the guy. Every now and then, I’ve had to write something that leaned toward unfavorable about a performance, but that’s the profession. Personally, I’ve always found the guy to be helpful, engaging and pretty sharp. In interviews, he actually says something, which isn’t always the case with athletes, as we know.
No. 2: Plenty of athletes get involved in charity, but there are two very different approaches to it. One set is OK with making the appearances, being where they need to be, when they need to be there – so long as someone else handles the legwork. As long as it’s fairly simple, they dutifully fulfill their obligations.
The other set actually finds ways to invest themselves. I’m not saying they go hammer nails for the latest safe housing project in Central America. But they do find avenues into personal involvement. It helps when they identify something that reaches them, something about which they feel personally connected. Altidore and his Haitian relief efforts strike me this way. I respect that.
No. 3. Where passionate supporters and media groupthink conspire, things can sometimes go very wrong. To wit (and something Altidore himself has pointed out), when the masses began writing off a 19- or 20-year-old forward as a failed bit, that’s just silly. That’s a guy that, in the traditional American sporting arc, would just be launching his professional career.
Altidore addresses this, again, in a good piece from Leander Schaerlaeckens.
And there’s lots of “inside soccer” stuff, too. Altidore, 22, talks about his good fortune in arriving into the Netherlands, where they value the game’s technical points. For instance:
We spend a lot of time in training just getting better at our trades and that’s different from around the world. But we work on the little things: timing, how to time your runs off the winger, whether to cut to the first post or second post.”