Jozy Altidore, who had played for the U.S. national team in 17 consecutive World Cup qualifiers, was not among the players who gathered in Miami on Monday to begin training for Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Antigua and Barbuda.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Altidore off the 24-man roster despite the fact that the Boca Raton native leads the Dutch league in scoring — a surprise move that had U.S. fans and pundits buzzing.
“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe over the last 14 months,” Klinsmann said Monday on a teleconference. “Jozy can do much, much better. The reason why he’s not coming in is mainly about his performances at Jamaica and at home [last month], also in training. Also, certain things that went on through the May and June camp.
“So, we decided to bring in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon and give them a chance to show they’ve improved. They’re both doing really well in MLS now.”
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Altidore has scored nine goals in 10 matches for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, but he had no goals and one assist in two starts and four games off the bench with the national team.
Klinsmann always has maintained that club performance is critical in his team selections, but he said is making an exception in Altidore’s case.
“I think [club form] is absolutely important,” Klinsmann said. “Now, it looks a little bit different in Jozy’s case because he’s doing well with Alkmaar, and he’s scoring goals. But he hasn’t done well with us in the last couple of camps.”
The coach said “the door’s always open” for Altidore to return, provided he “puts more effort and commitment.”
Altidore was unavailable for comment, but last week told Sports Illustrated: “I just hope people will actually realize that I don’t try to go to the national team and not play well. I’ve represented the country in so many games on the biggest stages. Of course, my intention is to do all I can to help the team win. It’s a challenge. It’s a different role and not an every-day environment, so the challenge is adjusting to that and still finding a way to be effective. Good players do that, and I want to become that.
“When you experience a little bit of success at club level, the whole challenge is to transfer that to the national team and become a complete player. Guys like Clint [Dempsey] have done it. I want to try and do that, but it takes time. It takes a real maturity and understanding of that with the national team. With the national team it’s just a different animal, and I’ve got to adjust to that.”
In other roster news, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley are back on the squad after missing recent games with injuries. Donovan injured his left knee on Saturday night, but the injury appears less serious than originally expected. He was scheduled for an MRI on Monday but skipped it and got on a plane to Miami.
The Americans will train at FIU on Tuesday and Wednesday, and fly to Antigua on Thursday. All practices are closed to the public.
The team plays at Antigua and Barbuda 7 p.m. Friday (BeIN Sport), then hosts Guatemala on Oct. 16 at Kansas City (ESPN2, Univision).
The United States is tied with Guatemala atop Group A with seven points and identical goal differential. Jamaica is third.