When it was announced that Jozy Altidore was going to Sunderland from his then current club AZ Alkmaar, I immediately thought that it was a terrible fit for the U.S. Men’s National Team striker. Sunderland and AZ play two completely different styles of soccer, and Altidore wasn’t the type of striker that Sunderland has had success with in the past.
Fast forward to the end of December, and Sunderland lies at the bottom of the English Premier League table. As I predicted, Altidore’s move there from AZ is seen largely as a bust. In his time in the EPL, he has started 17 games and scored only one goal. You only have to get on any random sports website to see Sunderland fans bashing him in the comment section for not scoring goals.
Although some of his criticisms are accurate, a lot of people overlook the fact that Sunderland is -17 in goal differential. Altidore is not the type of player that a team can start firing long-balls down the field and hope he makes something happen when they’re behind. He needs quality midfielders around him that are scoring threats and can pass accurate through-balls; he’s faster and stronger than a lot of player and needs to get behind the defense.
One look at his success with the USMNT exposes where his strengths lie, and they aren’t at all with the way Sunderland uses him. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with me that Sunderland’s formation and style of play is the reason that Altidore is not having success, or whether it’s something to do with him. Either way, Altidore isn’t having success at Sunderland.
With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil quickly approaching, Altidore’s lack of scoring in club play has to concern both Jürgen Klinsmann and USMNT fans alike. Klinsmann has encouraged MLS-based USMNT players to go abroad on loan in the offseason, but what’s to stop a team like Sunderland to let a player like Altidore go on loan to an MLS team for half of a season?
MLS teams would be fighting over which team Altidore would go on loan to. There are multiple MLS teams that could use a big name striker to bring in both goals and money. A USMNT player not only brings in more fans to games and more television viewers, but expands the fanbase across the country. Imagine if he went to a struggling major market team like D.C. United; he could change their outlook for next season almost immediately.
Altidore is only 24, which means he has a lot of time left playing professional soccer. Sunderland may want to move in a different direction at the moment because of his lack of goals, but selling him would be a crucial mistake. He has proven time and time again for the USMNT that, in the right circumstances, he is a world class player. By loaning Altidore to an MLS team, not only would Sunderland be able to retain Altidore and monitor his progress, but they could build a standing relationship with an MLS team that could lead to future talent acquisition.
Sunderland may be rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table, but they are not the worst team in the EPL by far. It’s far too early in the season to think that Sunderland can’t fight their way out of potential regulation, and loaning out Altidore would get the fans off of the new coach’s back as well. It probably won’t happen, but if Sunderland loaned Altidore to a team in the MLS, it would benefit him, the MLS, the USMNT and Sunderland. Someone at Sunderland should get on the phone with an MLS team soon.