It’s all a party for Jozy Altidore these days. Goals are rolling down like rivulets of rain down a window pane on a steely Seattle afternoon.
Altidore put in an shift to remember in Wednesday night’s friendly, tallying a second-half hat trick to silence Bosnia 4-3 and keep a world-best 12-game winning streak intact. Jozy also deserves the lion’s share of credit for Eddie Johnson’s goal as well. Did I mention it was a comeback from a 2-0 deficit? And it was America’s first comeback win on European soil? Ever? Yeah, that was a thing too.
It was exceedingly obvious against Bosnia that Jozy’s tactical discipline has made him a better player. He’s always had the ability to lash home those goals. But at an earlier stage in his career, he wouldn’t necessarily have been in position to score them.
You can’t put Jozy in the realm of the world class just yet (say it with me again, he’s still 23), but AZ set him on the trajectory that can get him there. And who knew he could caress free kicks now? The dude is full of surprises. Get him on your EPL fantasy teams now, gents. Value figures to skyrocket.
But as good as Jozy’s evening was, it wouldn’t have been much at all without Michael Bradley, the wizard behind the curtain as ever.
It’s incredible how much value Bradley has to this side. Probably more than any other one player. On the back of a really great piece on his acclimation in Italy (HAVE EYES), Bradley put in another shift worthy of his General Bradley-like calm and reserved cool. I think the greatest maturation Bradley’s undergone since his move to Italy is his ability to hit those medium range over-the-top balls on a dime.
Serie A is a measured league, speed traded out for a reserved gait that values deliberation over rocket quickness. Bradley, of course, fits this mold as well as anybody, but he’s taken to it even more deeply than I think most of us anticipated. Early in his career, I think most of us would’ve tabbed Bradley as a prototypical No. 6, sitting deep, recycling overused possession and spurring the attack from deep. Not necessarily participating in it. Those expectations started dovetailing in the Netherlands, but it wasn’t until he got to Italy that they’d changed completely.
I do not suggest Bradley will ever be Pirlo, but the fork in his career is taking him more in that direction than it is toward, say, Daniele De Rossi. He runs more from deep, hits more pinpoint over-the-top through balls, dissects defenses more in the attacking third. I can’t explain how valuable it is to have Bradley playing in between the two extremes on the spectrum in Totti and De Rossi. From Totti, Bradley can add silk to his game. From De Rossi, steel. But I think it’s instructive that Bradley has more often talked about the effect Totti has had on his game than he has of De Rossi. Sort of tells you about his mindset.
Where I think you see this most in his recent USMNT past is in his distribution. Say what you will about his ability to track back and break up ice floes drifting toward Tim Howard, but he’s become more valuable now picking out runners and dropping in balls on the counter. He leads the break so smoothly that you almost forget he was once considered to be only a holding midfielder in an empty bucket.
It’s exciting that Jozy is scoring goals and Aron Johannsson seems to have the verve of an early-career Charlie Davies. But so long as Bradley is playing like this, the US midfield will remain the team’s beating heart.
Finally, here are Jozy’s three tallies, including his smooth setup for EJ on the first. Mighty impressive, all