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AZ director denies that Altidore won't be available for upcoming U.S. friendlies

Goal.com
With squad for Ukraine friendly chosen, Klinsmann has chance to answer some key questions
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With squad for Ukraine friendly chosen, Klinsmann has chance to answer some key questions

Jozy Altidore could potentially play in upcoming United States men's national team friendlies against Belgium and Germany after all.

AZ Alkmaar director and former U.S. international Earnie Stewart explained to Goal that he is still in the process of working out an arrangement that work best for all three parties involved: Altidore, the U.S. national team and AZ.

"We are looking to work out something with the U.S., nothing official has been decided yet," Stewart told Goal in a telephone interview.

A spokesperson from U.S. Soccer confirmed that the two parties are still in discussions, saying, "U.S. Soccer and AZ Alkmaar are continuing to have discussions over a release date for Jozy Altidore." 

With the Eredivisie season closing on May 12, Stewart believes Altidore should have a brief rest this summer before resuming playing.

The U.S. training camp prior to friendlies on May 29 and June 2 starts on May 21, and the team plays in three crucial World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras on June 7, 11 and 18. AZ's preseason training camp starts on June 25 and the club has the Dutch Super Cup match against Ajax on July 27.

AZ kicks off its Erevidisie season in the first weekend of August and has Europa League qualifiers at the end of the month after qualifying for the competition by winning the Dutch Cup on Thursday. In short, with all of the travel expected, Altidore doesn't have much time for rest and Stewart is concerned of the injury risks involved.

"If he joins the U.S. on May 21, he won't have any vacation time," Stewart explained. "I've done it myself, I know it's not good to not have any vacation between club games and international matches and what that can do to a player's body."

There has been some speculation that AZ is essentially protecting one of its biggest assets, but Stewart was quick to object. Altidore has been in torrid form for AZ all season, scoring 31 goals in all competitions, including the Dutch Cup-winner against PSV. Altidore's form has led many to believe that he will be sold by his club when the summer transfer window opens, but Stewart insisted that AZ wants to keep Altidore.

"That's a bunch of you can fill in the blanks," Stewart said. "There's no truth to that. As I've stated before, we want Jozy here for next season."

Altidore's status for both matches came into doubt after the AZ Alkmaar striker revealed recently that his club wouldn't release him until May 28 and that he wouldn't be available prior to June 3.

"Hopefully I will get called in, but I won’t be part in any of the [two friendlies]," Altidore told the Soccer Today podcast. "I would be released three or four days before the first [qualifier] game against Jamaica, away. That would be the earliest AZ would release me."

Those statements from Altidore immediately raised concerns, as the situation mirrored last year, when Klinsmann publicily questioned AZ for not releasing Altidore earlier ahead of three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers and was disappointed with his fitness during training.

Based on Klinsmann's thought process, the former Germany boss isn't upset over situations that prevent players from arriving on time to camp, he is more concerned about how fit they are when they join the national team. Stewart doesn't expect Altidore to be held out that long but admitted that the 23-year-old could miss the start of the U.S.'s training camp.

"It's offseason and a player should be allowed to get some rest in," Stewart said. "Still, we are aiming to work things out with the U.S."

Altidore's sports agency, James Grant, was unavailable for comment.

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