NEW YORK -- It has been almost two years since Jozy Altidore last scored for the United States in open play, yet Jurgen Klinsmann remains confident that his young forward will turn things around.
"Not at all [concerned about Altidore's scoring drought]," the U.S. head coach told Goal.com. "What we want from Jozy is to grow... the goals will eventually come."
Altidore's last goal for the Stars and Stripes was a wonder strike game-winning goal from outside the box against Guadeloupe on June 14, 2011, in that year's Gold Cup. He hasn't had much luck since. Aside from a penalty scored against Slovenia later that year -- his only goal during Klinsmann's tenure -- Altidore has gone 12 caps and counting since adding to his international tally of 13.
Altidore's struggle to contribute offensively has drawn criticism during Klinsmann's spell in charge of the United States. The contrast between Altidore's mostly inept form with the Red, White and Blue and his stellar performances for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie is significant.
This season, at only 23 years old, Altidore made history by becoming the highest-scoring American player in European club competition history - topping Clint Dempsey's 23-goal tally by scoring his 24th in early March. With nearly a month of the Eredisivie season remaining and currently sitting at 25 goals, Altidore will likely have 30-plus goals to finish his second year at AZ. Yet Altidore's club progress hasn't translated into success for the U.S. team and, at times, Klinsmann has been openly critical.
The former Germany boss questioned Altidore's work ethic in a conference call in October and left out the striker for two crucial U.S. World Cup qualifying matches against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala. Since that period, Altidore has responded with improved performance - even if he remains scoreless.
The former New York Red Bulls prodigy had a strong performance against Costa Rica, assisting on Dempsey's game-winning goal and hustling to help the Yanks retain possession. It is those strides that have given Klinsmann reason to believe that Altidore has picked up his game since being briefly left off the U.S. roster.
"When there's a moment where he's not getting the message then maybe you leave him out for a game or two like we did - and he got the message," Klinsmann explained. "He came back and he was really on top of it."
He added, "He's totally [improved], he's on a tremendous growing path and his upside is big."
There have been a lot of expectations on Altidore since his debut at age 18 for the United States, a reality that Klinsmann is well aware of and wants to manage. As one of the elite strikers in German history, Klinsmann wants to challenge Altidore to reach his potential.
"He's still only 23 years old. You're talking about a young player that already has 50 caps, so the expectations might be over the moon," Klinsmann said. "We want him to take his time but we also want him to understand what it takes a to be a 24/7 professional."
With a trip to the 2014 World Cup on the line, the relationship between Klinsmann and his still-developing striker could affect whether or not the United States makes any noise in Brazil next summer.
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