The Eredivisie is not the Barclays Premier league. Sunderland was avoiding relegation last year. His first cup of tea in England with Hull City did not taste very good.
Regardless, Jozy Altidore moving to Sunderland is huge, for the United States and for U.S. Soccer.
It may just seem like a normal transfer for England, for the Netherlands, and for European football. Make no mistake, though: the investment that Sunderland is making in 23-year-old Altidore is more than just a £8.5 million transfer. Sunderland is making an investment in the U.S. Men’s National Team, and the future of the U.S. striker position.
The United States has not seen a player like Altidore in many years, an out and out striker that conducts his business solely in the penalty area. Yes, Landon Donovan has 52 goals and 51 assists for the national team. Yes Clint Dempsey has 35 international goals himself. That being said, his age (23), his position, and his current goal scoring record (17 goals in 60 caps), Altidore is the prodigy for the United States. His first touch goals will be the American signature that the viewers across the pond can be proud of.
With all do respect to the Eredivisie, the Barclays Premier League is Carnegie Hall. Altidore is the first performance of the season, and the opening curtain will open to his second chance at the big time. The audience may be bigger, and the critics will be in full force, but he is still standing on a stage that many will kill for.
As Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, and Clint Dempsey have proven, it does not matter who you play with. Sunderland was a Paulo Di Canio away from going past the brink of the nPower Championship, but then again, so was Fulham when Clint Dempsey made the jump across the pond. Heck, Brad Guzan had to face a barrage of Premier League shots in order to keep his side, Aston Villa, above water. The shot to play in the highest rated soccer league in the world is all that matters.
The cloud over Altidore now is whether he can replicate his Eredivisie goal record from the Netherlands to England. His last trip to the United Kingdom saw only one goal in 40 appearances in all competitions with Hull City, who got relegated that same season. It was not until a move to the high scoring Dutch League – Eredivisie teams scored on average 12 percent more goals than Barclays Premier League teams over the past five seasons – that his career took off.
Altidore’s goal record with AZ Alkmaar should not be brushed away. This is a team that challenged for a Champions League spot in his first season, and won the Dutch Cup in his second. He helped Alkmaar qualify for the Europa League twice in his two seasons in Holland.
No one knows what the future holds for Altidore. Will he follow the Dempsey model, come off the bench and eventually transfer to a top club? Will he be forced to go out on loan like Maurice Edu?
What is to come for Altidore at Sunderland will come. the fact that he had a price tag of nearly $13 million gives hope that America is catching up in international football.
Strike on, Jozy. Your opening curtain is coming, and the audience from across the pond hopes you shine.
(Photos Courtesy of AFP and Sunderland Echo)