United States striker Jozy Altidore doesn't agree with Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to drop him from the Gold Cup roster, but he accepts it. The USA's fifth all-time leading goal scorer was sent back to his club Toronto FC following the group stage of the Gold Cup. His lack of match fitness while recovering from a hamstring injury being the main reason given by the manager for his dismissal.
"We believe that Jozy's just not there yet," Klinsmann said after removing him from the roster. "Jozy never really got into this tournament and never really picked up the rhythm. He's just simply not in the shape right now to help us. For Jozy it's just simply going back to Toronto, picking up his rhythm, getting in shape, working on his fitness and then he will start scoring goals again."
While the striker isn't causing a public scene, he does claim that Klinsmann knew about about his fitness issues before calling him into the team.
"My club [Toronto FC] knew where I was at, Jurgen knew where I was at, and we had spoken previously before the Gold Cup about where I was at." Altidore told ESPNFC. "Obviously I would like to be there, but there's nothing that I could do about that."
Altidore's dismissal from the Gold Cup roster is just another bump in his rocky relationship with Klinsmann. Back in 2012, just a year into the German's tenure as USMNT manager, Altidore was not called up for two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. The reason given on that occasion by Klinsmann was much more blunt.
"Jozy can do much, much better," Klinsmann said at the time. "The reason why he's not coming in is mainly about performances."
The relationship between the two, much like Altidore's career, has been a series of ups and downs. The legendary Germany striker took Altidore under his wing when he first took the U.S. job and has been his biggest critic and fan since then. Last year before the World Cup, Jozy broke out of an historic goal scoring drought for both club and country. Klinsmann was the first to praise him.
"That's what I always told him, you're not getting it for free. You've got to go and work for it. He got sharper and sharper, fitter and fitter and we knew that if he gets chances, he will put one in."
Jozy has always found a way to claw his way back to the top of the U.S. striker depth chart. Even with his frustratingly inconsistent form and his current fitness issues it wouldn't be a wise decision to count Altidore out of the USMNT picture for good, or even for a long spell. The fact is, there is no other striker in the player pool who possesses the skill set that he does. When in-form, he's the best hold up striker the U.S. has.
Aron Johannsson can score all of the club goals he wants, but he's still not strong enough to hold the ball up at the international level. The new flavor of the week Gyasi Zardes has some exciting tools, but being a target striker is not one of them. His time as a striker at this level has seen him get pushed off the ball with ease and unable to hold possession for his team with any effectiveness.
Younger options such as Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, or Rubio Rubin are either a ways away from being consistent national team contributors or unable to cement themselves at the club level. Agudelo is probably the best direct replacement for Altidore in the player pool, but he was passed over for Alan Gordon to replace Altidore, which tells you where he is in Klinsmann's mind right now.
When Altidore is healthy and at the top of his game he's the best striker the U.S. has to offer and it's really not even close. If Altidore can regain his match fitness and stay healthy he will undoubtedly find his way back into Klinsmann's good graces once again and score goals. This isn't "goodbye" more than it is "see you later".