U.S. striker Jozy Altidore is of the belief that he could have helped the U.S. national team in the Gold Cup knockout rounds, but in light of his struggles to recover from a right hamstring injury, he accepts the decision of manager Jurgen Klinsmann to drop him from the roster.
"I don't really take it that hard because I knew where I was at [physically] going into the Gold Cup," Altidore told ESPN FC via telephone. "My club [Toronto FC] knew where I was at, Jurgen knew where I was at, and we had spoken previously before the Gold Cup about where I was at. Obviously I would like to be there, but there's nothing that I could do about that."
The tournament's roster rules dictate that up to six players can be added from the 35-man provisional roster after the group stage. Altidore, midfielder Alfredo Morales, and defender Greg Garza were dropped by Klinsmann, while forward Alan Gordon, midfielder Joe Corona, and defender DaMarcus Beasley were added.
Altidore made little impact in the first two U.S. games of the tournament, and was pulled at halftime of the Americans' 1-0 victory over Haiti. Still, his demotion was somewhat unexpected given his unique qualities among U.S. forwards, among them his ability to hold the ball up and play with his back to goal.
In terms of his overall fitness, Altidore said he still felt he was at a point where he could still contribute.
"I'm at a percent [of fitness] where I felt if I was needed in the knockout rounds, I could have helped the team," he said. "But Jurgen made the decision and I'm totally fine with it. I support Alan Gordon. I want Alan to go there and hopefully score three or four goals in three games and help us win the Gold Cup. I hope that it works out the best for everybody."
This isn't the first time Klinsmann has shown Altidore some tough love. Back in October of 2012, Klinsmann left Altidore off the roster for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda as well as Jamaica. But on that occasion, Klinsmann specifically alluded to Altidore's poor performance over the previous months. Both the player and coach stated that on this occasion the issue was more fitness-related.
"We believe that Jozy's just not there yet," Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. "Jozy never really got into this tournament and never really picked up the rhythm. He's just simply not in the shape right now to help us. For Jozy it's just simply going back to Toronto, picking up his rhythm, getting in shape, working on his fitness and then he will start scoring goals again."
Altidore added that heading into the Gold Cup, both he and Toronto preferred that he stay with his club during the group stage to build up his fitness, and then be added for the knockout rounds, but Klinsmann insisted that the U.S. forward be there from the start.
"I was just coming back from injury and [TFC and I] though it would be better served for me individually and better served honestly for the team if I stayed in Toronto," said Altidore. "I would be able to go in and be in better shape than I was when I joined. The national team insisted that I came in when I had to come in, so what happened is not really a surprise to me. Everybody knew what [the situation] was going into it."
Altidore said that he encountered no problems with the hamstring while he was with the U.S., and expects to be available for Toronto's game against Philadelphia this weekend, though that will ultimately be the decision of TFC manager Greg Vanney.
"Naturally, there's going to be some soreness when I came back initially with Toronto, and the first couple of games," he said. "It's natural when you come back from injury and you have good days and bad days. For the most part I felt fine. I didn't have any problems there.
"I'm feeling better and better every day. I'm feeling great and I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field this weekend and playing again."
When asked about his relationship with Klinsmann, and if they were on the same page, Altidore said, "Of course, for most things, yeah. But it doesn't matter, he's the coach and we're players and we have to do what the coach wants. That's just how it is."