Jozy Altidore, The New Cover Boy
Barely a year ago, Jozy Altidore was just trying to find some playing time as a 16-year-old rookie with the New York Red Bulls. Today, he is considered to be one of the rising stars of Major League Soccer (MLS).
His strike rate of one goal every 130 minutes is one of the best in the league and he is now on the North American cover of Electronic Arts’ FIFA ’08 alongside Barcelona and Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho and Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Jozy Altidore is the second youngest player to be featured on the cover of an EA product. US midfielder Freddy Adu was just 16 when he was a cover boy.
Altidore’s reaction to his new-found status? “It’s exciting to be on the cover of my favourite video game and I am really looking forward to playing as myself in FIFA ’08,” he admits. “I can hardly wait to play with my virtual character wearing the Red Bull kit and taking on the world’s top defenders one-on-one.”
The way Altidore is playing, he might be taking on those defenders in real time sooner rather than later.
Altidore is the first to admit that he still is learning the game, but he conducts himself like someone twice his age. He turned 18 on 6 November, so he is now eligible to go to Europe – if he wants to, of course.
Originally, he was content to remain in the USA for a while, but after an eye-opening performance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 with four goals in five games, Altidore has changed his mind, especially after seeing some of his team-mates, including the much-heralded Adu (Benfica) and Danny Szxtela (Racing Santander), take the plunge.
When asked about what he had learned about himself at the tournament, Altidore replies: “I always told myself that if 1 really put myself to it, there is not much that I can’t do as a player. Yes, I’m still young. As I grow older, if I still apply myself, I think I will do well. I just learned that that this was kind of an eye-opener for me. Things can really happen at any level, I can really be a decent player in this business. I just look at it as ‘keep working hard and keep trying to get better’.”
Altidore has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. After being chosen in the second found of the MLS Super Draft, he combined his athleticism, skills, strength and speed to become one of the most dangerous forwards in the league.