Jozy Altidore was a product of the hype machine.
As a 16-year-old from New Jersey he made his debut for the New York Red Bulls in August of 2006. Less than a month later, he scored his first goal and went on to become the youngest player ever to score a goal in the MLS Playoffs at 16 years and 337 days. He beat the previous record by almost three years.
Altidore’s initial success was good and bad. He showed fleeting moments of becoming the kind of player who could truly transcend the game, someone who just might be able to excel in the big-boy leagues in Europe. While there has been American success across the pond – which is the kind of description that really sells Clint Dempsey short, but I digress – no one has really captured the attention of the world, or scored goals regularly in the Champions League. Was Jozy “The One”?
In short, no, and here comes the bad: Altidore hasn’t really lived up to the LeBron James-esque expectations that came with such a hot start at such a young age. We wanted the next Wayne Rooney, we got another Freddie Adu.
He bounced around for a bit, and now, as a wily veteran of the game at 22, Altiodore, playing for AZ Alkmaar in Holland, leads the Eredivisie with eight goals.
It’s not just the number of goals that matters for Altidore. Check the video below. Jozy displays quicker feet than we’re used to seeing from him or a man his size on the pitch. His touch is deft and skilled. His timing is excellent. The finish is clinical.
Yes, this is one highlight of one game. But a funny thing tends to happen to athletes between the ages of 23-26. Those flashes of brilliance tend to become more regular occurrences.
Jozy Altidore’s 23rd birthday is November 6.