With World Cup qualifying closing in, Alexi Lalas certainly has a point, especially given the forward options called into camp for the United States ahead of a series of friendlies at the end of March.
Gasp. Lalas right?
This past week, Lalas raised an eyebrow or two with comments that he thinks Jozy Altidore is the best forward in the player pool for the United States. Given the crop of emerging forwards for the United States, this was certainly going to illicit some responses on social media.
The problem with the United States right now, and where Lalas is certainly right, is that the forwards are emerging and not proven. And while the likes of Josh Sargent and Matthew Hoppe or a Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu are all promising and making a mark in Europe, none has accomplished anything similar to what Altidore has done for club or country.
Altidore, despite turning 32-years old this November, might well be the option for head coach Gregg Berhalter when the games start to mean something this fall during World Cup qualifying. Having been down this road and participated in two World Cups, Altidore can be the literal point for a United States attack that is exciting and promising but woefully young.
Of course, the inclusion of Altidore for qualifiers would mean that the Toronto FC forward must be fit and in form. Two things that haven’t happened much for Altidore over the past 18 months.
The allure of going all young with a Sargent or a Hoppe up top (or even the 25-year old Siebatcheu) is certainly full of intrigue. That Sargent is starting and playing well in the Bundesliga is a hopeful sign that, after a rough year in Germany, his form is beginning to turn for club and country.
But if Sargent doesn’t begin scoring regularly for the national team over the spring and the summer, then Berhalter might turn to the established Altidore. He certainly isn’t the future, but if healthy and fit, there is no reason that Altidore can’t be part of the present for the selection.
It shouldn’t take away or diminish the future of Sargent or any other emerging, young forward such as Daryl Dike. Berhalter was right to call in an assortment of forwards for the March friendlies against Jamaica and Northern Ireland and Dike has certainly earned a look (one of several things that Berhalter got right in this recent United States roster).
But if no one can start producing and being a difference maker up top, then it might be time to give Altidore a final nod for qualifying.
So Lalas is right. Gasp.