A year ago in January Camp, veteran forward Jozy Altidore got off to a great start in 2016, tallying goals in U.S. wins against Iceland and Canada.
The pair of strikes set him on course for a huge year leading the line for both the MNT and Toronto FC, with the 27-year-old combining for 21 goals and 11 assists for club and country. The output earned Altidore U.S. Soccer’s 2016 Male Player of the Year award and helped take TFC to its first M.L.S. Cup Final, where they lost on penalty kicks to Seattle Sounders FC.
Having put that disappointment to rest, Altidore arrived in January Camp this week ready to look ahead in 2017.
“It’s always exciting to start a new year, new coach and have a bunch of new faces,” he told ussoccer.com. “Everybody is raring to go and it’s just about getting ourselves going in the first couple weeks and then we have two good games at the end of the camp.”
One of eight players in camp who have previously played for Bruce Arena, Altidore actually gained his professional debut under the new MNT head coach when he became manager of New York Red Bulls following the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Altidore thrived in a season-and-a-half under Arena, racking up 12 goals and four assists in 29 matches before his 18th birthday, with the performance eventually leading to his MNT debut that November in a 1-0 friendly win against South Africa.
Eleven years after first working with Arena, Altidore (left) is happy to see him back steering the MNT ship.
“I think Bruce is a guy whose name speaks for itself in terms of what he’s done throughout U.S. Soccer, what he’s done in M.L.S.,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s going to be serious, he’s going to demand a lot out of you, but at the same time keep it light. Full of jokes, full of personality, but also has a great eye for the game and putting good teams together. I’m excited to work with him, I think everybody should be excited and I think he’s a good fit for us right now.”
While two crucial World Cup Qualifying matches loom for Altidore and the MNT at the end of March, the immediate focus for those gathered in Carson, Calif., will be towards gaining fitness, with the reward being two friendlies against Serbia (Jan. 29 in San Diego) and Jamaica (Feb. 3 in Chattanooga).
- TICKETS: See the U.S. MNT vs. Serbia Jan. 29 in San Diego
- TICKETS: U.S. MNT Takes on Jamaica Feb. 3 in Chattanooga
Should Altidore appear in either match, he’ll become the 17th player in MNT history to hit 100 caps and the second youngest to do so behind only Landon Donovan.
While that milestone is just around the corner, Altidore says his main aim is on helping the MNT get back on track in World Cup Qualifying and helping his club side replicate its form from 2017.
“I want to have another year where hopefully I do whatever I can to help this team, whatever I can to help Toronto FC and hopefully have another productive year. You always want to try to be better and better and improve all the time, so that’s my main goal.”