By, Kyle Gibson
The US match against Nigeria on June 7 isn’t a must win, but more like a must score, for one Jozy Altidore.
The striker, who has constituted much of the United States plans for the attack at the World Cup, is in a slump to end all slumps. As ESPN pointed out with a graphic every time Altidore was near the camera Sunday, he has not scored for Sunderland or the US since December 4th, a near six month drought.
Here’s the thing, strikers go through slumps, it’s a fact of life. Even Luis Suarez will have the occasional goal drought. Normally, a striker that is good can find their way again through hard training and hard work in matches. Crashing the goal hard and hanging out for rebounds for a confidence building tap in always helps.
The problem for Altidore is his playing time with Sunderland dwindled to almost nothing throughout the length of the EPL season. Manager Gus Poyet couldn’t trust Altidore and his two goal season for much beyond the role of a substitute in the team’s relegation fight. Altidore only saw one match with the US before the World Cup tuneups, the nasty 2-0 loss to Ukraine in March. With limited chances to make his mark, Altidore has struggled to find a rhythm for either team and his play has suffered.
Chances came and went against both Azerbaijan and Turkey, the latter of which he probably should have scored in. I am obviously not a team insider, but I would say Jurgen Klinsmann is very nervous about his second striker. Would Klinsmann consider sitting Altidore at the World Cup for an Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski? Or would he maybe even run a single striker with Clint Dempsey? Altidore needs to alleviate this dilemma by scoring in the final tuneup against Nigeria.
This is easier said than done. After all, Nigeria is one of the five African World Cup squads and won the 2013 African Cup of Nations. The teams to score against should definitely have been the first two opponents, but here lies a great chance for Altidore to score against a World Cup opponent and restore faith to his manager and teammates ahead of another African side, Ghana.
Would Klinsmann bench Altidore? That remains to be seen. However, if Jozy finds the net against Nigeria, I see his place secured and his confidence given new life ahead of the group of death.