Jozy Is The Future

There has been a lot of talk about how no US strikers have scored in the last two World Cups. This is an uncomfortable stat and is a fairly solid thing to point to for why the US isn’t in the tournament. Strikers have to score and Altidore’s failure to do so is worth pointing out. But we shouldn’t go over board.

Jozy it seems to me is being treated as if he is a veteran in his prime, with the same expectations of a Donovan or a Dempsey. He is 20 years old. Repeat that. And then repeat that again.

Yes he didn’t score, but in my mind he had a very strong World Cup. he played the target role brilliantly, he scared the crap out of defenses and as a result opened up space for others to come in behind. He drew fouls, created chances, and ran at defenders. He hit the post against England, set up Bradley’s equalizer against Slovenia, and put the ball in to the box for the winning goal against Algeria. Against Ghana the importance of Altidore was evident when he was taken off before extra time. Without Jozy the US lost one of their main focal points in attack and his absence allowed the Ghanaians to focus more on Dempsey and Donovan.

It seems to have been forgotten that target strikers are often late bloomers. No one heard of Didier Drogba until he was about 25. Brian McBride didn’t settle into the premier league until his 30s. Jozy, while not scoring many goals at Hull City this year, started more games at striker than anyone else on the club and he did so as a lonely isolated holding player, where chances were few and far between. I heard some Englishmen remark that they had seen Jozy play and weren’t all that impressed – his touch would elude him, he would drift in and out of games, make the wrong run at times, or try to do too much on his own. But most of these commentators had no idea that Jozy is 20 years old. If Jozy were English, he would be hyped to be the next savior of England and would have a hugely expensive price tag. Think I am over doing it? Crap, marginal players English players like David Bentley even cost 20 million dollars!

I had thought that this year could have been a break out year for Jozy, instead he showed solid incremental progression, while demonstrating flashes of brilliance against teams like Manchester City and Chelsea this year. To become more consistent, he will need to land in a good settled situation where a team invests in him and sees him as integral to their future plans. One would think Villarreal could be that place – the club after all bought him for $10 million from New York – and with fellow American Giuseppe Rossi one would think that pace and power combination would be dangerous. But should Villarreal decide to loan him out again or sell him, it is important in my view that Jozy goes to a club that is not a bottom feeder team that is fighting for survival and is stuck bunkered into his own half. He needs to play with some talent around him in order to learn what runs to make, where to position himself, and how to train and work like an elite professional.

Jozy has the potential to be an elite striker. He has pace, size, and power and is very skilled on the ball. The next step for him is to add that scoring touch, that fox in the box mindset that turns average strikers into great ones. He may not develop it, but based on the World Cup performance, there is no question that the future star of US soccer is already in our midst.


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