ALTIDORE HOPING FOR VILLARREAL CHANCE
United States international and Villarreal striker Jozy Altidore says he is hoping to get a chance to stay with his parent club for the upcoming La Liga season.
Upon signing a contract with the Spanish club in August of 2008, Altidore played the first half of that season with the Yellow Submarine before getting sent to second division club Xerez where he never appeared in a match.
The New Jersey native was then loaned out to then-English Premier League club Hull City where his season ended unceremoniously with a head-butting incident and a disappointing total of one goal scored in league play.
Now entering his third full season as a professional in Europe, Altidore is aiming to secure a spot on the Villarreal roster once he returns for preseason training next week.
"For right now, I want to go back [to Villarreal] and play," Altidore recently told YA. "I feel like it's my time to start making an impact there… maybe not starting every match and scoring 20 goals, but playing in a lot of matches and helping the team win."
What has encouraged the young forward that a stay at Villarreal could come to fruition are the words from coach Juan Carlos Garrido who is starting his first full year at the club after taking the reins in the middle of last season.
Garrido has stated to the Spanish press that he would like to have Altidore on his squad for the upcoming season but that the club's financial constraints might dictate otherwise. In any event, the fact that Garrido is eager to count on him gives the former New York Red Bull a big boost.
"Garrido was with the B team when I first got there so when I didn't make the bench for a match I trained with him and his team," he said of the coach from the Comunidad de Valencia. "He was always encouraging and being honest and helpful with me. He helped in my progression as a player so it means a lot to me that he's come out and said what he said."
"People have a certain perception about how my play was while with Villarreal so him saying that he has belief in me is great, but I know the club is going through some tough economic times and I know they have to first deal with that."
Just recently the Spanish calendar for the 2010-2011 season came out and underneath the highlight matches between the giants of Spanish soccer sits an intriguing match-up in week seven when Villarreal will travel to Alicante to play Hercules who are coached by Esteban Vigo.
Vigo was the coach in Xerez during Altidore's uneventful five months at the club where the former Barcelona player elected to not play the American in a single match.
For Altidore, his past with Vigo is long behind him and insists that he bears no ill will towards his former coach and has no plans to show any malice towards Vigo on that matchday.
"I really have nothing bad to say about Esteban," he said of the second year Hercules coach. "At the end of the day, he did what he thought was best for the team. Did he necessarily go about it the right way? You could argue maybe he didn't… But I respect him as a person and I'm not really interested in making anything personal with him."
Once the 20 year old arrives back at training at El Madrigal, he will be reunited with his close friend and fellow New Jerseyite, Giuseppe Rossi.
Much has been publicized about Rossi's decision to play for the Italian national team rather than his birth country and many US fans delighted in learning that Rossi failed to make Italy's 23 man roster for the World Cup.
The comments made by American fans about his long-time friend dismayed Altidore who divulges that it was Rossi who helped him most when he arrived in Spain two years ago and that he understood the decision the former Manchester United man made about his national team alliance.
"I was extremely disappointed with how the fans reacted towards Giuseppe," Altidore said of the 23 year old from Teaneck, NJ. "You know, it wasn't easy for me when I first got to Villarreal… Giuseppe and Robert Pires helped me a lot when I first got there but especially Giuseppe since he spoke English. We got to be really close and so I understood his decision [about playing for Italy] so I was really disappointed with how US fans took him being left off the roster for Italy."
As for the US 23 man roster, Altidore figured prominently in the tournament starting in all four matches for head coach Bob Bradley.
When he steps back to evaluate both the performance by the team and his own, the former Under-20 star feels that both were positive, but that there is still room for improvement.
"Personally, I thought I did alright," he noted. "I learned a lot and now know what I need to address and work on to become a better player next time if I am fortunate enough to be back playing in the next World Cup. I think from a team standpoint it was a good tournament but that we also could have played better. But it was a lot of fun, an amazing experience and definitely eye-opening for me to play against different players."
The tournament ended for the US with an extra time loss to Ghana that saw Bradley's squad fail to muster any serious scoring chances in the additional 30 minutes once Altidore was substituted out of the match in place of Herculez Gomez which left the first-time World Cup player ruing the missed opportunity.
"Bob and I had a conversation on the sideline and he felt it was the right decision to take me out," he discussed. "I think we did a great job in the Ghana match but we were a bit unlucky and that it just wasn't our time. But again, these are things we know that we need to address in order to move forward the next time we get in that situation."
One memory that Altidore and his US teammates will always relish is being part of arguably the single greatest moment in the history of US Soccer.
Landon Donovan's last-gasp goal versus Algeria in the final group stage match resulted in the US winning Group C and earning that second round date with Ghana.
Yet Altidore points the collective effort by the team in the 90 minutes leading up to the Donovan goal that helped make the dramatic gamewinner all the more sweet.
"It was an amazing feeling to be part of that moment when Landon scored," Altidore said of the 91st minute strike. "Everyone who was involved in that game and all the players on our team left their stamp on that match. Every player had some sort of effect on that match and made their presence felt. I think all over the field we stepped it up so to have that game end the way it did made it all the more special. It was a victory we deserved."
Like the other 22 players, the Haitian-American took immense pride in representing the US in South Africa.
However, in wake of last January's devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Altidore adds that he felt like he was also playing for his parents' homeland which is still in the long process of recovery from the horrific natural disaster.
"For me, I definitely felt like I was representing the US and Haiti at the World Cup," concluded Altidore. "No disrespect to the US which is the country that has provided me all the great opportunities I've had in my life and why I always give my all for the US. But at the same time, I see myself as a role model to Haitians and it will always be a part of my life and who I am."
Altidore will report to Villarreal preseason training on August 3rd in preparation for the club's season opener versus newly-promoted Basque club Real Sociedad.