Reactions and overreactions to l’affair Altidore; why Jurgen Klinsmann’s choice isn’t that shocking

13 Comments

The shock registered throughout our domestic soccer community over l’affair Altidore is, well, almost a little shocking.

Jozy Altidore’s omission from Monday’s national team announcement was certainly a surprise. Paired with Eddie Johnson’s restoration of national team grace, all this is certainly a curveball that deserves discussion, if only because it smacks of sending mixed messages. But it’s not that exactly staggering, now is it?

First, I’ve said on more than one occasion (having “borrowed” the line from friend and fellow soccer journo Brian Straus), “I am done trying to predict Jurgen Klinsmann.”

And I mean it. Klinsmann has always marched to his own quirky drumbeat, going back to his playing days. We always knew this about the guy; his penchant for less conventional thinking is among the reasons everyone wanted him in this position all along, and it played no small part in U.S. Soccer’s enduring pursuit. It’s part of the Klinsi charm, right?

So, using that as a starting point, shouldn’t any thunderbolts coming out of his Home Depot Center office strike with just a little less bang?

I certainly expected to see Altidore’s name on the roster. He’s Dutch league’s leading scorer, after all. The Eredivisie isn’t exactly La Liga, but top tier Dutch soccer would land solidly in the middle of any European league ordering.

So, yes, Monday’s news registered as an “eye-opener.”

But all this? Reading comments across the answer web, some fans seemed utterly incredulous. A few media outlets used the words like “shocker” and wondered about Klinsmann’s motives.

And the word “snub” popped up with frequency, which seems to imply something personal. Frankly, I don’t get that at all. Coaches select squads and lineups based on a sliding scale of ability, experience, locker room chemistry, roster balance and positional cover. That’s about it. If they get it wrong, they get fired – so they work hard to get it right.

This is no more a “snub” in the conventional vernacular than Sacha Kljestan’s lack of call-ups in 2012 (before Monday, of course.) Klinsmann just reckons he’s got better people for a particular job.

There were little hints along the way; Klinsmann always sounded less than impressed last summer with Altidore’s fitness and commitment. He may not have said so overtly, but listening to Klinsmann talk up guys like Herculez Gomez and Terrance Boyd did serve to raise some antennae.

The boys from ESPN Press Pass weren’t shocked over Monday’s big talker; Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop called it a little surprising and hoped that it would spur something more from Altidore.

source:

If we removed the name and just examined the numbers, this wouldn’t even register much above “mildly surprising.”  Altidore has no goals and one assist in six appearances this year. We would all look at that, mutter something about “he has to do better,” and then go make a sandwich.

It’s that form in the Netherlands and the lack of selection criteria consistency that does make this one harder to swallow; that much is clear. On the other hand, coaches do this occasionally, hoping a kick up the old backside will unlock better focus, more effort in training, closer attention to game-day details or whatever. (Not saying Altidore is necessarily deficient in any of those areas, just speaking generally here.)

After all, this could quickly blow over. Altidore could get back into the squad, and the guy could be scoring goals regularly in final round World Cup qualifying – assuming things don’t go horribly sideways over the next eight days.

“The decision is just for these two games,” Klinsmann said. “The door is always open.”

 

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.