Altidore set for 50th U.S. match in homecoming
MIAMI (AP) -- Jozy Altidore is on the cusp of playing in his 50th match with the U.S. men's national soccer team.
And it never gets old for him, either.
"Anytime you're going to the national team, it's great pride,'' Altidore said. "It's something very special to be asked to play for your country.''
Especially now, with the U.S. set to meet Jamaica in a home-and-home series that could go a long way toward deciding control of Group A qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Americans have been training in Miami this week, in advance of the trip to Jamaica for the first matchup on Friday.
Altidore, who has 49 caps with the Americans, plays for the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar and flew into Miami on Monday. It's a busy time, but well worth a little fatigue, he said.
"I'll tell you what, man, it's times like this that you really look forward to,'' Altidore said. "The first game is not in America, but the second game at home, it's fantastic. We get home, we see family, we get to be around the guys and that's really special.''
In fact, for Altidore, the trip to Miami is a dual homecoming - back to the U.S., and back to his native South Florida. Altidore grew up in Boca Raton, about an hour north of the team's training site this week.
There's a buzz about World Cup qualifying, maybe more than usual, and Altidore said it's an exciting time to be part of the national program.
"I think it's good,'' Altidore said. "I think it says a lot about the game and what we've done as a federation and as players to push the game in our country. It's always improving. Can it get better? Obviously. But it's getting better. I've seen it. It's an exciting time for the national team. It's an exciting time to be a part of it. It's a new age.''
Of course, soccer is far from the only thing he's part of.
Altidore knows sports are a platform he can use for certain causes, and he's involved in a slew of them. He's working on a project with a nonprofit organization called Generosity Water, which is trying to ensure that a village in Haiti - the nation where Altidore's parents and many of his relatives were born - will have clean well water.
He's started a foundation, with plans of taking that on a wider scale soon as well. And earlier this summer, Altidore raised awareness of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia - one of the most common cancers to strike children - when he wore a bracelet to recognize Kashius Mostransky, a boy from the Albany, N.Y. area with the disease.
"It's very simple,'' Altidore said. "We need to get more people involved.''
A few more goals with the national team would only help his ability to raise awareness for whatever he wants.
Altidore said he already feels comfortable with the changes Jurgen Klinsmann made when he took over as national-team coach, meaning the learning curve in camp this week isn't necessarily as steep as it would have been a few months ago.
"What I do think is in terms of his style, that's still going to take some getting used to,'' Altidore said. "Guys come from different clubs and different leagues and play different styles. So to come in and kind of play an attacking style that not everybody plays with their club, it's an adjustment. For some guys it's easy. For some, it takes a while to get used to.''
Klinsmann was an attacking player when he starred for Germany. Altidore sees similarities in the way he wants to play.
"Every coach has their own way of doing things,'' Altidore said. "With him, I think the main thing that sticks out is just his positiveness. The way he wants us to play, I think it's really attractive to a player like myself. I enjoy that he encourages people to go forward and take risks. It's definitely a different outlook but I think we've embraced it so far.''
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