MNT in Netherlands: Behind the Scenes
ussoccer.com and Studio 90 are back on the road to continue filming with MNT players for an upcoming video series to air later in 2012. Having spent time in February with Michael Bradley in Verona, the crew is in Alkmaar to see what life is like for Jozy Altidore as he nears the end of his first season in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Alkmaar is a charming city of canals, a smaller and tamer version of Amsterdam, which sits less than 30 minutes to the south. Amongst the cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes, Jozy Altidore has – after a few different clubs in Europe – finally found the right environment to focus and improve his craft.
Much like Michael Bradley discovered earlier in his career, Holland is a nurturing ground for developing talent. Under the direction of head coach Gertjan Verbeek and sporting director – and U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer – Earnie Stewart, Jozy is learning the positional requirements of a striker in a version of a 4-3-3. More importantly, he is developing the confidence and maturity that have led to 17 goals in all competitions, including a run through the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League.
On Wednesday night, AZ faced a massive game against FC Twente. Entering in second place in the league and one point behind Ajax, the hosts desperately needed three points to keep the race close. Add in that Twente are in third place and nipping at their heels, points now can mean the difference between the Champions League, Europa League or none at all.
With his mom and niece in attendance, Jozy had a dream start with a goal in the third minute and the stadium erupted as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared on the PA. A nice combination and a little bit of luck allowed Twente to level before halftime. With 20 minutes remaining, Altidore finished what is becoming a trademark goal for the striker, using his size to create space with his back to the goal, combining well with a teammate, then using a bit of footwork and cleverness to wrong-foot the 'keeper.
“It was a good ball from the defender, and I laid it off to Adam Maher,” he recalled. “For me, it’s all about the return pass. It’s a great pass, and it gave me the opportunity to get a shot off.”
Subbed out to a standing ovation in the 80th minute, he watched helplessly as Twente equalized right at the end of regulation to snatch a 2-2 draw.
“It was difficult to sit there and watch, especially when you want to be out there with the boys,” he said. “But that’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate and disappointing, but we have to pick ourselves up now because we have a very big game Saturday.”
Look for video of ussoccer.com’s visit with Jozy Altidore and other MNT players this summer as the U.S. begins the campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.