AZ striker Jozy Altidore bagged his third hat-trick of the Eredivisie season on Sunday during his club’s 6-0 smashfest of nine-man FC Utrecht. The triple brings Altidore’s overall total to 28 goals and his league total to 21, both new single-season records for an American in a European top flight.
The U.S. striker opened his tab from the spot in the 28th minute before doubling his total with another penalty just six minutes later. Three minutes after that Altidore had his hat-trick when he rose to head home a cross and sent Utrecht packing. With the win, AZ snapped a four-match drought at home and moved six points clear of the relegation zone.
While banging home a hat-trick in nine minutes is never a bad thing, Jozy’s feat highlights the discrepancy between his play for club and country. It’s growing increasingly frustrating to watch Altidore rip off goals for AZ yet appear helpless for the Nats. From an American fan perspective it can almost feel personal – If Jozy can score at will in Holland why can’t he do so for the National Team?
Sure, fans don’t expect him to run rampant against quality CONCACAF opponents like Mexico, Costa Rica or Honduras but against countries like Canada and Antigua & Barbuda, Altidore should be dominating. But it’s not happening. In fact, in the last seven World Cup Qualifying matches that the 23 year old has played (four of which he started) he’s failed to score and only managed three shots on target.
Of course, Altidore’s poor form for the Yanks is anything but personal. His form at AZ is due in large part to the squad’s three-pronged, wide spread, attacking style of play. Opposed to the isolated, back-to-goal role that Altidore is constantly given with the USMNT, he is afforded near limitless freedom and support at AZ. The Dutch club’s style, formation and mentality allows Altidore to run at defenders, creatively link up with teammates and crash the box from behind the play.
At the end of the day it’s difficult to compare club football in Holland to international football within the CONCACAF. But in a country where Altidore’s play is constantly under a microscope, it’s worth nothing that although Jurgen Klinsmann originally expressed his desire to implement an attack-minded approach (similar to that of AZ), it has yet to actually materialize.