Josmer Volmy Altidore, still only 20, is a mainstay in Bob Bradley’s fast-improving USA team. With an almost preternatural ability to hold up the ball and bring his team-mates into play, the muscular forward is not only virtually assured of a starting spot at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, but is, even at such a tender age, already ranked among the match-winners for the Stars and Stripes.
Altidore, proud of his Haitian parentage and touchingly outspoken in the wake of the recent earthquake on the island, has already bagged eight goals in just 20 caps for the Americans. He also played a crucial role in the side’s fairytale run to the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa last June, which they eventually lost to a star-studded Brazil after taking a shock 2-0 lead.
He featured in all five games, scored one goal and contributed mightily overall in the competition, the first time a USA men’s team reached the final of a global tournament. Altidore emerged from his first South African jaunt as a bona fide star alongside such tried and trusted veterans as Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey. And with USA facing an injury crisis ahead of the FIFA World Cup this summer, with injuries likely to keep out Oguchi Onyewu and fellow striker Charlie Davies, Altidore will be expected to take up a leadership role.
“We are a blue-collar team and we always try to make things hard on our opponents,” Altidore told FIFA.com about the philosophy of the American side, whose semi-final win over Spain, who were top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking at the time, at South Africa 2009 ranks as one of the biggest in international history.
“Teamwork is what makes us effective. Our primary aim is to outwork our opponents as a team and then it's down to our individual talents to take advantage of the situation. I always try to contribute to this approach.”
A precocious youngster, Altidore was destined for big things at an early age. In 2006, at just 16, he scored three goals in his first seven appearances for New York Red Bulls en route to becoming a firm fan favourite for the Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit. After less than two seasons in the Big Apple, young Jozy set sail for Europe. Spanish outfit Villarreal - then led by current Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini - shelled out €7.4m for the then-18-year-old, a record offering for an American that still stands.
It looked to have the makings of a fairytale move, too, when Altidore hammered his first goal against Athletic Bilbao in November 2008, another first for an American in La Liga. However, the shine went off Altidore’s European adventure shortly after. He was loaned to second-flight leaders Xerex in January, where he failed to make even one appearance in the first team.
“You have to focus on where you are,” Altidore said of his difficult time with Xerex, while he continued to firm up his place in the USA side with six goals – including a hat-trick against Trinidad and Tobago – in qualifying for South Africa 2010, and a starting place in the 2008 Beijing Olympic squad. “Sometimes as a young player you can find yourself looking ahead to where you want to be and miss out on the chance that comes your way because you're not focused on the task at hand.”
Altidore’s current loan spell, this time with English outfit Hull City, has been more successful on a personal level. But despite his two goals in 13 appearances, the Tigers are languishing second-bottom of the Premier League. With coach Phil Brown recently sacked after a string of poor performances that have the side facing the very real prospect of relegation, the USA attacker's future remains uncertain.
But regardless of what the coming weeks and months bring, ambitious Altidore – who stated early in his career that he wanted to be playing for Barcelona by age 25 – is likely to keep improving and driving forward. The affable and effective attacker will have another big chance to prove his worth this summer, on no less a stage than the FIFA World Cup.
Jozy became the first American player to score a goal in Spain's La Liga, for Villarreal against Athletic Bilbao on 1 November 2008.
Altidore was brought to Spanish club Villarreal in 2008 for €7.4m by current Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, a record transfer fee for an American player.
Both of Altidore's parents were born in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, and he honours his heritage by wearing a wristband with the colours of both the USA and Haiti flags during games.
Altidore is a dedicated user of Twitter, keeping in touch with fans via the micro-blogging site. Once fined by his club Hull City when he revealed reasons for his omission from a league game, Altidore continues to 'tweet' on a near-daily basis.