Jozy Altidore‘s absence from the US national team for the majority of the 2014 World Cup was a massive loss for Jurgen Klinsmann‘s side this summer, many casual onlookers have opined in the weeks and months since.
When Altidore went down with a grade-two hamstring tear just 22 minutes into the USMNT’s first group stage game against Ghana, he took the Americans’ only hope of making a significant run in Brazil with him, naysayers would go on to say.
The harshest of Klinsmann’s critics felt that the USMNT’s Round of 16 exit was almost solely Klinsmann’s fault, not only for assembling a 23-man roster which featured just one center forward capable of leading the attack on his own, but that Klinsmann had pinned his entire World Cup cups on a forward, Altidore, who had scored zero goals for club or country in the six months leading up to his fatal roster decision.
With that kind of form, who knows whether or not Altidore’s performances might have even been worth the countless tweets, columns, podcasts, and radio and TV show discussions dedicated to the topic? One man does. That man’s name is Jurgen Klinsmann.
The USMNT head coach, seemingly always armed with a quick defense when things don’t go right — some might call those ‘excuses’ — for everything, is very sure Altidore’s presence would have made a massive difference in June.
That’s a theory few would dispute, but how big of a difference might he have made? According to Klinsmann, he’d have been right in the middle of the race for the Golden Boot.
“I mentioned it to some people after the World Cup: If Jozy would have been fit, his form prior to the World Cup in the friendlies*, I think he was a player for four, five goals in the World Cup,” said Klinsmann following Friday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Colombia. “In the way we play, we look for him and feed him. Unfortunately he didn’t have that opportunity. It would have made a big difference for us. There’s no doubt about it.”
* Altidore scored two goals in a send-off series game against Nigeria
So despite the fact that Altidore had scored just two goals in his previous 30 appearances for club and country (at the time, his last goal for Sunderland had come on Dec. 4, 2013), Klinsmann claims he’d have doubled — or more — that output in the span of four or five games against some of the best competition he will have faced his entire career.
That’s quite an easy thing to say months after the fact, once all the dust has settled. And that is, sadly, becoming very much par for the course with Klinsmann.