As Men’s National Team camp convened Sunday in Washington, D.C., U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called for all players to “prove a point” that they belonged on the roster that will face Mexico in next month’s CONCACAF Cup.
With Clint Dempsey absent from the first part of the international window – he scored seven goals in the 2015 Gold Cup - the opportunity is even greater at the striker position where Klinsmann has summoned five players all aged 25 years or younger. Heading into this camp, Klinsmann said “so far, nobody has a real big advantage over another guy.”
With 83 caps and two World Cups under his belt, Altidore isn’t just the most experienced of the current forward crop, but also one of the most seasoned international players on the team. While the veteran striker departed the team following the Gold Cup group stage, he’s returned to the side after scoring three goals in his last two matches for Toronto FC.
“It’s nice to come back into camp with some goals,” Altidore said. “You put the work in. You have to train to get back to how you were and get your fitness back. I’m feeling better and excited to have the chance to come back into camp and hopefully I can get on the field and make a difference.”
With the match against Mexico looming on Oct. 10 and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying kicking off the following month, Klinsmann has said it’s crucial for the next generation of forwards to step and claim their place.
“There's a time period to break in and make yourself comfortable and be a part of a group, but there's also a time to understand the moment to step up and build your future in the team,” he continued. “Now after a year that we called a transition year where we developed young forwards like an Aron Johannsson and a Bobby Wood and obviously some others, we are eager to see the next generation of forwards becoming consistent. By that I mean first of all scoring goals.”
Senior Men's National Team debutante Andrew Wooten has his eyes set on his first full international appearance with the USA.
Johannsson and Wood are joined in camp by two familiar faces in Altidore and Gyasi Zardes, as well as newcomer Andrew Wooten. The debutant 25-year-old earned his first National Team call by starting off the 2.Bundesliga campaign with five goals in five matches for Sandhausen.
“I always dreamed of playing one time in the Men’s National Team,” Wooten told ussoccer.com. “I’ve worked really hard in my club and I’m very happy now to be called up for my first time. Hopefully I can put on some good performances to stay here and play maybe in the next camp and next games.”
The striker with the best goal scoring form coming into camp, Wooten has already provided a new spark to the competition up top according to Johannsson.
“It’s always difficult to get on the field for the full team, especially now with a new face coming into the camp who is going to try and get some minutes,” the newly minted Werder Bremen striker said.
“It’s the National Team. Every time you come to camp, it’s going to be difficult to get in the starting 11. We have good players. Jozy is obviously the most experienced, and so it’s going to be interesting to see who he plays. On the other hand it’s nice as well because we have some good competition and everybody is fighting every training to prove to the coach they should be playing.”
Bobby Wood unleashes a shot during MNT training in the lead up to the team's Sept. 4 friendly against Peru.
Few players in world soccer can say their first two international goals came against the Netherlands and Germany, and even less can say they were game winners. Bobby Wood can.
After two magnificent strikes at the beginning of the summer, the 22-year-old was given time off during the Gold Cup to work on establishing himself at his new 2.Bundesliga side, Union Berlin.
With his club situation clarified, Wood will hope games against Peru and Brazil help him build off his early summer performances and earn another roster spot for the team that faces Mexico next month.
“These are two awesome games in the U.S. and I’m just going to take advantage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much time I get, whatever it is I’m going to do my all to prove that I want to be here. We’ll see what’s up from there.”
Despite the hefty international experience he holds over his fellow forward counterparts, Altidore has embraced the open competition Klinsmann has put in place.
“The competition is lovely,” he said. “It’s part of being at this level with the National Team, and it’s something we all have to acknowledge. It’s part of the job. It’s been part of the job for my whole career.”