Jozy Altidore had a monster 2012-13 season for his club team, AZ Alkmaar, setting a US scoring record while securing Alkmaar's first Dutch Cup since 1982. He is finally fulfilling the vast potential he displayed when he debuted for the New York Red Bulls as a 16-year old. That success is carrying over to the US National Team as well.
“That's the Jozy we want and he's capable of doing that," assistant coach Martin Vasquez told MLSSoccer.com after his recent performance against Germany. "It has taken a while for him to play a game like that with us – he's been doing it in his club, Alkmaar, so hopefully his performances are more consistent like today."
Though he disappeared against Mexico in late-March, as he has been too prone to doing in his international career, Altidore rebounded to end a 19-month international scoring drought with a brilliant goal against an always-difficult German side.
It seems to have set him off.
Altidore followed his performance against Germany, which included the game-winning assist to Clint Dempsey in the 4-3 win, with another goal against Jamaica.
His goal against Panama, however, showed more flashes of the level he and the US soccer team is capable of playing. Though Panama is relatively weak, especially compared to the Germans, the USMNT moved the ball well, looked calm and found space. And check Jozy's progression. One goal came from a volley, the next an aggressive header, and the third was a product of excellent movement and timing.
Though manager Juergen Klinsmann came under fire earlier in the year after reports surfaced about a near-mutiny in the locker room, the team is starting to come together and play well with one another.
“This team is in a transition,” Klinsmann told The Sporting News in March. “Between two World Cup cycles, faces change. We’re doing that, and you also kind of mix up the chemistry. There will be a new group of leaders coming through that process, and that will be responsible for molding everything together.”
There is no doubt, at this point, that Altidore is filling one of those leadership roles. Now it's just a matter of how far he can go with it.