Altidore spotlights overseas pitfalls
Surely by the time he returns to Spain,
This viewpoint is patently absurd, but it's not much of a stretch for vast numbers of American fans and pundits to opine in this manner, seeing as they also questioned how in the world Villarreal coach
Lost in the vitriol and hyperbole swirling about this snub of the fine young Jozy is that Pellegrini had better players, more experienced and battle-hardened, at his disposal, and yes, one of them is the New Jersey-born
With nine matches to play, Villarreal is fourth in La Liga and on Tuesday faces Arsenal in the Champions League quarterfinals. That Pellegrini is some hapless coach, huh? Franco, 32, hasn't scored a league goal this season, and if he leaves this summer, that could move Jozy up the ladder. Maybe.
And Xerez, well, is atop the Second Division, and thus why would coach
Despite languishing on the bench, whether he knows it or not, Altidore is a better player than the sometimes hesitant, robotic rookie we saw two years ago in Major League Soccer, and the promising and powerful yet glitch-prone lad of last year. His movement off the ball, his positioning in coordination with his teammates and his decisions on touches and traps are all greatly improved from what he displayed at the Olympics. Like most forwards, he will score goals in streaks and labor through droughts, but his game is much fuller.
His case illustrates the perils of leaving MLS for Europe, as desirable and necessary it may be for a player to reap the financial and competitive benefits. And whether he has earned a role as a starter can be leavened by the stark fact that no field player on the U.S. roster would rate a regular starting place on any of the top 10, maybe the top 15, teams in the world.
MLS and U.S. Soccer regularly take broadside hits for their efforts to find, develop and groom players. But ours is not a soccer culture, where being steeped in the game nurtures understandings and appreciations most American players need to be taught. Just about every player who heads overseas talks about feeling out of place, surrounded by so many teammates for whom so much about the game is second nature, learned by absorption as much as instruction.
A cynic would say
At 14 or 15 or 16, an English kid joins a pro team and spends the day, every day, living and playing and breathing the game. Every year or so, he renews a contract, or gets cuts loose and thus must decide which club to try next, or whether to try another line of work. How many American kids endure that pressure or make those choices as teenagers? Until MLS can instill that environment, it can't catch up. And how many parents in this country will toss their children into such a situation?
Rossi's father may have been a bit pushy, yet his son went to Parma of Italy as a teen and, after the road bump known as Manchester United, has hit the autostrada at top speed. He, too, burst out in frustration a few times as he learned how the game is played off the field.
By leaving MLS so early in his career, Altidore virtually guaranteed he'd be parked on the bench in Europe for a while. The good news is he's still so raw that the training and the environment already have reaped great benefits. The bad news is his ascending learning curve will soon flatten out without stiffer competition. He seems to have the maturity to handle it, but also must be realistic enough to know much of his destiny is out of his hands. That's how it goes overseas.