Sunderland 'a difficult team to play for,' says Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore says Sunderland are a hard team to play for after not even making the bench for the League Cup final

Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore has described Sunderland as “a difficult team to play for” after losing his place in the team.

The United States striker was left out of the squad for Sunday’s League Cup final.

It was only the third time this season he has not been involved in the 18-man matchday group.

The reasons were obvious. Altidore has not scored in his last 17 appearances, and has only two goals all season – one in the league and one against Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup.

However, after returning in the USA’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine in Cyprus on Wednesday, the 24-year-old contrasted the ease with which he plays for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team to the difficulty of turning out for Sunderland.

He said: “I feel like the (USA) players know my strengths more and it’s where I’m most comfortable, sure.

“I’ve been faring better with the national team over the past year, and I want to keep that going because it means a lot to me to play well for my country.

“At Sunderland right now it’s difficult. It’s a difficult team to play for, and we’re not playing as well as anybody at the club would like.

“We need to put our heads down and keep fighting so I can get back in the team and hopefully get my place on the plane to Brazil.”

The USA have been drawn in a difficult World Cup group alongside Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Despite his struggles this season, it would be a major surprise if Altidore was not involved.

Klinsmann is a big admirer of the forward, who played for 85 minutes in Cyprus. He is, however, anxious to see Altidore back in Sunderland’s team.

Klinsmann said: “You want every player to get into a rhythm.

“If a player is suddenly on the bench and, in a striker’s case, being denied the opportunity to score goals, when you head into the biggest competition in the world you think about that and you hope he solves the situation and gets back into the team.

“It is up to the players to solve it. We need our players to get into a rhythm in the next 10, 12 weeks.”

Altidore has scored eight times for his country in 2013 and, despite a near two-year barren spell, he has an impressive overall record of 21 goals in 66 appearances.

It stands in stark contrast to his Premier League statistics of two in 52 appearances with Sunderland and Hull City.

Altidore will be hoping Gustavo Poyet feels the need to change his side at the weekend after Sunday’s energy-sapping 3-1 defeat at Wembley.

Poyet has used this season’s FA Cup to rotate his squad – the game against Southampton in the last round was one of those Altidore did not feature in – but a return to Wembley is the prize for Sunday’s winner in Hull.

Steven Fletcher returned from an achilles injury to take a place on the bench but was far from convincing when he came on and did not feature in his country’s midweek friendly against Poland.

If and when Altidore gets his chance he is determined to make the most of it.

He said: “To not be able to play in a final was a big disappointment for me, but the gaffer felt there were people who deserved to be there more than I did.

“Hey, this is life and I have to move on and get better. It’s nothing personal. You can’t look at it that way. I need to get my head down and work hard.”

Meanwhile, on-loan defender Marcos Alonso admits he does not know who he will be playing next season.

The left-back joined on loan from Fiorentina in early January and has looked much more comfortable than previous incumbent Andrea Dossena.

However, with Sunderland far from guaranteed to be in next season’s Premier League next season, the Spaniard is not making any long-term plans.

He said: “I’m very happy here with the manager, the rest of the team, the staff, everything.

“I’m playing, that’s the main thing, but I have two more years in Italy so I will have to go back at the end of the season.

“What happens in the summer, I don’t know.”

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