USMNT Roundtable: Will Jozy catch Landon?

At his recent pace, he'll hit 60 USMNT goals sometime in 2019...(101greatgoals.com)

At his recent pace, he’ll hit 60 USMNT goals sometime in 2019…(101greatgoals.com)

One aspect of USMNT that doesn’t appear to be struggling in recent games is Jozy Altidore. Can he keep it going and crown his career with Landon Donovan’s national team scoring record? The roundtable considers…

Jozy Altidore scored a goal in USMNT’s opening game of 2015 – the 2-3 loss to Chile. It wasn’t bad at all: one touch, confidently side-footed inside the far post from around 12 yards out.

USMNT hasn’t been producing great results recently: one win in the last nine games is the statistic that keeps getting batted around by Jürgen Klinsmann’s increasingly vocal band of detractors.

And that record may not get a whole lot better in the near future: after a home friendly against Panama on February 8 (and brace yourself for the uproar if USMNT doesn’t win that game), Klinsi’s Yanks are scheduled to take their shambling show on the road. Away days in Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany fill the FIFA dates between now and June. The only home game in that stretch is against Mexico in San Antonio, and El Tri plays so frequently in the US these days that it is increasingly difficult to suggest the team is at much of a disadvantage on this side of the border.

Can a national team head coach on a four-year contract can be fired for disappointing friendly results in the earliest stages of the World Cup cycle? Klinsmann has built himself a schedule to test that question, and the patience of USMNT fans, thoroughly.

But top-class opposition implies the coach will be looking to pick his best players. Right now, that list includes Jozy Altidore. Sunderland travails aside, Jozy is hot right now: three goals in his last four USMNT appearances (not including the fast-approaching Panama game).

And those three goals have lifted Altidore’s career scoring total for the national team to 26, fifth on the all-time list for USMNT.

He’s 25 years old. He’s just moved clubs with the specific intention of regaining the scoring touch that has eluded him for so long since he moved to Sunderland. And despite not having been in his best form at the club level since mid-2013, Jozy has enjoyed a prolific streak for USMNT in that time: 13 goals in 25 appearances since the start of 2013.

Twenty-six goals is a long way off Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57 goals), but if Jozy is now settling in to a pattern of a dozen international goals every two years, he’ll be one good season away from LD’s total by 2019 – the year he’ll turn 30, and a Gold Cup year to boot.

Can he keep it up? Are we watching the career of the next all-time great USMNT goal scorer unfold before our eyes?

The roundtable is in session…

Yes, we're talking about you, sir. (it.wikipedia.org)

Yes, we’re talking about you, sir. (it.wikipedia.org)

Jason Iapicco

Landon Donovan: 57 goals, 157 caps, 0.36 goals per cap. Jozy Altidore: 26 goals, 77 caps, 0.33 goals per cap. If he kept up with his current scoring rate, Altidore would score approximately 26 goals in the next 80 caps (bringing level with LD’s 157 national team appearances). That’s a total of 52 goals: five short of Donovan’s record. It’s hard to say Altidore will reach 157 caps as we don’t know what the future holds, and it’s hard for me to see him breaking Donovan’s record.

Altidore has always been a streaky striker. His last few years where he did nothing for Sunderland but lit it up for the US is a clear example. 2013 was breakout time for Jozy: 8 goals in 14 games, and one of the best summers ever from an American striker in international competition. So, can he keep up and improve his current goal scoring pace for the US?

Probably, but being a streaky striker means you can expect long dry spells. For example, half of his current USMNT goals (13) have come since the start of 2013 (25 caps), the same amount as in his time from 2007-2012 (52 caps). The first six years were not under Klinsmann, who has seemed to found a solid role for Altidore.

While his role in the team seems to be set, the supporting cast may be changing. With the 2018 World Cup on the horizon, the USMNT is expected to get younger, so Altidore will have a different supporting cast. Will they provide the same service Jozy has come to know the last few years?

Combine his streakiness with a changing cast of characters in the US squad, and I don’t see Altidore keeping up with Donovan.

You honestly thought a a few goals in some friendlies was going to turn everyone around? (famousface.us)

You honestly thought a a few goals in some friendlies was going to turn everyone around? (famousface.us)

Rob Thompson

Blasphemy! How dare you even consider the notion that Jozy Altidore will catch Landon Donovan as the USMNT Goal King?

There is no denying that Jozy Altidore is a talented target striker, possessed of rare abilities that cannot just be coached into a player. Jozy has size and speed that  a difference maker on the pitch. At the young age of 25, Jozy has 26 international goals in 77 appearances. He will clearly have the opportunity to add to this tally in the future, most immediately in the 2015 Gold Cup this summer.There is also Copa America in 2016, Gold Cup 2017, a whole bunch of exhibition matches, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and the 2018 World Cup itself – probably Altidore’s last stand with the USMNT, in my opinion.

Landon Donovan had 57 goals in 157 appearances and retired at the age of 32. Donovan has just a slight edge in the head-to-head goals-to-game ratio. There is no denying that Altidore has a chance to catch the Goal King, but I don’t think that will happen.

The number one reason why I don’t think Jozy Altidore will not take Landon Donovan’s USMNT Goal King crown: Coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Coach Klinsmann has made it clear that he prefers players who are plying their trade in the major European leagues. Jozy Altidore’s failure at Sunderland and his imminent return to MLS has surely created some doubts in Klinsi’s mind about the national team pecking order for strikers. It’s only a matter of time before the next USMNT starlet will appear on the international stage. Klinsmann is always looking to improve the team and other players will emerge and get their opportunity to challenge for that #9 shirt. It’s only a matter of time before the next USMNT starlet will appear on the international stage.

To hold down the starting #9 position for four years – between the World Cup just passed and Russia 2018 – is a long time and a major challenge in itself. I’m positive that Klinsmann is waiting for the right person to come around so that he can move Altidore down the depth chart.

Is Jozy Altidore going to be the next Goal King?  Absolutely not!

I think Jozy will eventually take over third position on USMNT’s all-time scoring list, easing past Eric Wynalda’s 34 goals. But that is where I see him topping out. He’ll be an icon of US soccer: ahead Wynalda and Brian McBride (and he has already nudged past Joe-Max Moore), but behind Clint Dempsey and the Goal King.

Landon Donovan was the face of American Soccer, and his legacy will continue to include the USMNT’s all-time scoring record for many years.

Meanwhile, on the subject of up-and-coming USMNT-eligible goalscorers….

Alex White

I thought this one would be pretty simple. He’s got 26 already: nearly half of Landon’s total in just less than half the number of games. And he’s a striker! He’s up front, looking to poach those goals and muscle his way across the line. Bigger and stronger than most of the regional competition he’ll see, too.
Then I broke out the calculator — and saw he’s already running behind. Landon’s 57 in 157 caps puts him at a rate of 0.36 per match; Jozy’s 26 in 77 clocks in at 0.34. (And yes, I’m rounding; it’s actually worse for Altidore: he’s at 0.33766234 to Donovan’s 0.36305732)
It’s a relatively apples-to-apples comparison age-wise, because the two men were born just about 8 years apart, so they hit World Cups at similar stages of their careers. (Ok, ok! They are 7 years, 8 months, and 3 days apart. I’m not looking up the minutes. Since when did you come to OTF for facts?)
Speaking of the World Cup, Jozy still has two of those ahead of him. That means a lot of qualifying matches to knock in some goals, and he’ll only be 32 at the 2022 tournament. That’s certainly not old enough to be put out to pasture. Wait, how old was Landon last year when Klinsi dumped him? Oh…
But still, still, he can do it, right? So what if his international goals per year average is 3.125, that projects to… just short of Landon, nevermind!
But, bigger… stronger… entering prime… And the team’s getting better! Yes, that’s it! The quality of US players is continually improving, so Jozy will be getting some sick service as the younger stars mature. A lot of assists for him to power home! But then… one of those youngsters may just be his replacement.
Can he do it? Yes?
And I’ll offer a 2015 prediction: this will be a good year for Altidore, despite the tough friendlies on the schedule. Look for him to score 10 goals for USMNT, a new personal best.
Big year ahead? (sbisoccer.com)

Big year ahead? (sbisoccer.com)

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Have your say in the comments!

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Follow OTF contributors @DoctaStooge@roblthom66, and @A1exWhite.To join the next roundtable, contact OTF’s USMNT editor, Austin Fido@canetop.

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