Looking for something or someone to root in the World Cup, which started today. You don't have to look to far north to pledge your allegiance to Jozy Altidore, the 20-year old U.S. National team forward of Haitian descent who grew up in Boca Raton. Altidore won the race to recover from an ankle injury and was named as a starter in tomorrow's mega match-up with merry ole' England.
Altidore's journey to the World Cup started in a Palm Beach park when as an 8-year old he was discovered playing in a pick up game. "He had an incredible understanding of the game for such a young boy," says Josef Schulz, who runs a soccer academy in Broward, and convinced Altidore's family to allow him to develop his talent. Even in that first encounter, Schulz was so impressed he told Altidore's father that the boy could one day play for the US team.
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Now, at 20, Altidore has already tasted more success than most professional soccer players in this country have in their entire careers. He played for the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer before making the jump to Europe and some of the best leagues in the world, including Spain and England. But Schulz thinks his former pupil has lost some focus and is disappointed with his performance as of late.
"On the one hand he's made it so far. But he needs some help making sure he can focus on his soccer." Schulz says that Altidore's lack of success at the club level is not unlike what happens to great soccer talent in
Even if Altidore has struggled to make a name for himself in Europe, the national team is counting on him if they are to progress deep into the World Cup. He has started 25 teams for the USA and scored nine goals. As well as playing against England on June 12, the US has games against Slovenia (June 18) and Algeria (June 23). The first two team in each World Cup group proceed to the next round.