Few will deny that Jurgen Klinsmann has gotten the best out of Jozy Altidore.
After poor form and a sub-par work ethic saw Altidore dropped from the U.S. roster ahead of a pair of World Cup qualifiers last fall, the striker was forced to recalibrate.
Klinsmann’s decision to demote Altidore proved vital as the 23 year old returned to the Stars & Stripes a new man, scoring seven goals in his past five internationals. Which is exactly the kind of output that Altidore’s club manager, Paulo Di Canio, is looking to unearth.
The Black Cats boss discussed Altidore’s debut performance at Sunderland with the Chronicle. “We need physical presence up front and Jozy gives us that,” said Di Canio. “In the second half he was receiving the ball in the middle of the field and that’s good for us, that he was willing to come back and attack the space. We needed him to stretch their central defenders and there were signs that he can do that. He has energy and pace and youth.”
Di Canio went on to discuss his view on how to bring the best out of Altidore. “Jozy is good but he can improve and I can be a very good coach for him,” the manager continued. “We are here to improve and I’m sure the players will but they have to listen to me. Jozy is only 23 and is stronger than he was the last time he was in the Premier League but he will get better. We are working on his movement and stretching defenses, because otherwise he can become difficult.”
Despite failing to score against Fulham last weekend, Altidore earned high praise from fans who rated him the most influential Black Cats player on the pitch.
As it stands, the competition for Altidore up top is relatively paltry. Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won both featured as substitutes against Fulham with little impact while Stephane Sessegnon is likely to remain in the supporting striker role. Altidore’s biggest competition will come from Steven Fletcher, who is currently sidelined through mid-September as he recovers from ankle ligament surgery.
American soccer fans can get a full dose of Altidore this Saturday when he and his teammates travel to St. Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton. That match is set to kickoff at 10:00am ET and has been marked as the featured match to be shown on NBCSN.
Remember to check out NBC Sports’ Match Finder to determine the channel where every Premier League fixture will reside given your respective television provider.