Jurgen Klinsmann has called 24 players into training camp to prepare for the United States' final two matches against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala, in the Semifinal Round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In a shocking surprise, Klinsmann did not call up AZ Alkamaar forward Jozy Altidore.
“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe over the last 14 months,” Klinsmann said Monday in a conference call. “Jozy can do much, much better. The reason why he’s not coming in is mainly about his performances at Jamaica and at home, also in training, also certain things that went on through the May-June camp.”
Altidore, who is tied for the Dutch league lead in goals with eight for AZ Alkamaar, had played in a team-leading 17-straight World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. before not being called up for the games against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.
Despite all his success in the Dutch league these past two seasons, goals for Altidore have been hard to come by with the National team.
Altidore’s last goal as a member of the National Team came against Slovenia last November.
It’s no surprise that with the lack of goals and poor performances versus Jamaica, Klinsmann did not hesitate to drop Altidore from the roster and make room for players like Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson.
Altidore struggled mightily to get touches in the away match against Jamaica on Sept. 7, and contributed little in a substitute’s role in the home encounter four days later.
But what makes this story interesting is not the fact he didn’t call up Altidore, but the fact Klinsmann said that club performance would matter in his roster selection, and if you went by club performance there is no way Altidore is not making the team.
But then on Monday, Klinsmann backed out of those comments by saying the circumstances around Altidore are different, “I think club form is absolutely important. 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.”
Under Klinsmann, the U.S. has scored more than one goal just three times, which makes you wonder why he left out the United States’ most productive European-based goal scorer, at the moment, off the squad.
And amidst all that, the qualification for 2014 goes on.
The U.S. first faces Antigua & Barbuda on Oct. 12 in North Sound, Antigua. Kickoff for the USA’s first visit to the island is set for 7 p.m. ET, and four days later the U.S. will close out the Semifinal Round at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas versus Guatemala—a game that will broadcasted live on ESPN2.
These last two games are a very important ones for the United States.
“We must have urgency within the group and a clear understanding that we need to deliver, which means each player has to bring a 100 percent effort,” said Klinsmann about these last two games. “All our focus and energy for the next few days will be on getting the right preparation for the team so we can win the next two games.”
The U.S. is currently even with Guatemala at the top of Group A with seven points and matching totals in both goal differential and goals scored.
Jamaica also has seven points but sits in third place due to a lower goal differential. With the three nations tied in points and jockeying for the top two spots, no team will be able to secure a place in the Final Round until the last group matches are played on Oct. 16.
Bellow are the players called up for these two critical games:
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8) : Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (8) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
Pedro Heizer is a Correspondent for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.