In a word, the way Jozy Altidore handled being the subject of racial taunts in a Dutch Cup match last week was "awesome," according to U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
Altidore was taunted with monkey chants by fans of second-tier Dutch club FC Den Bosch, and he went on to draw a penalty, scored on the ensuing spot kick and helped set up another goal in AZ Alkmaar's 5-0 victory that put the club in the semifinals of the competition.
Altidore maintained his composure during the match, and afterwards told Eredivisie Live, "It's a bit disappointing that these things still happen in this time that we're in, but what are you going to do? You just hope that these people can find a way to improve themselves and you can only pray for them."
Altidore and his teammates pleaded with referee Reinold Wiedemeijer to not halt the match, taking a different course of action than that of AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng, who walked off the field with his team after being the subject of racial taunts during a friendly with lower-tier Italian side Pro Patria in December.
"I feel like I have an obligation as a football player to my club and my family as well to not react to things like this and show that the club stands better of that and I was raised better than that to respond to such ridiculous behavior," Altidore continued in his postgame interview. "You would hope that we as humanity can grow from these type of times, but at the end of the day it's still alive, racism, and all we can do now is try to educate ourselves, the young kids coming up to be better than that, that's all we can do. All I can do is pray for [the fans] and hope they become better people."
Altidore, whose maturity has come under question by Klinsmann in the past year, drew rave reviews from the U.S. manager as he was recalled to the national team ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Honduras.
"The way he managed that situation last week was awesome," Klinsmann told reporters on a conference call Monday. "It deserves a big compliment."
The successful penalty kick against Den Bosch was the 23-year-old Altidore's 20th tally of the season in all competitions, which set a new career-high with almost four months remaining in the season. His progression for the Eredivisie club has impressed Klinsmann, who has previously been critical of Altidore for his lack of production and consistency on the national team level since the German manager replaced Bob Bradley in August 2011.
"We are very pleased with Jozy's development since I'm in charge," Klinsmann said. "We don't expect him to be perfect. He's still a very young player, he's still a player in his development. He is becoming more consistent. Obviously he scores goals on a regular basis for Alkmaar.
"He's still going through a maturing curve on the field, off the field. Our job is to get him to an international consistent level. He did the first couple of steps already, in the club environment he is becoming a consistent goal scorer. He's settled in Europe now after a little bit of a roller coaster since his transfer there at the age of 18 with different clubs when he was moved around. It's great to see."
After being left out of the USA's last two matches of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, Altidore returned for Novemeber's friendly against Russia. He started and played 87 minutes and continued to return to Klinsmann's good graces after his controversial omission.
"We work on his consistency," Klinsmann said. "The way he presented himself the last game in Russia was very positive, the way he worked for the team, and we just keep working day-in and day-out with him, whenever we have him."
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