Altidore a highlight at USMNT camp – Berhalter

United States manager Gregg Berhalter praised the play of forward Jozy Altidore, saying the Toronto FC striker has had a “great” January camp with the USMNT.

The U.S. is currently training in Orlando, Fla. after first training in nearby Bradenton at the IMG Academy. The U.S. will face off against Trinidad & Tobago this Sunday, with Altidore among those included in the 25-man roster.

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“For Jozy it’s been a great camp. He’s been participating really well. He’s been pushing hard,” the U.S. manager told reporters via a Zoom call. “We had to pull back a little bit in this last week, but we’re building him back up this week. You see that he has the experience, he has the maturity.”

Altidore’s playing time at club level has been limited due to a variety of injuries over the course of the past three seasons, playing in 48 of 91 possible league matches. Earlier this month, Berhalter stated that “the consistency of [Altidore’s fitness] is going to be important,” in terms of what the forward will be able to contribute to the U.S. in 2021. On Monday, Berhalter added he appreciates the veteran presence that Altidore provides as well.

“I think it’s nice to have veterans around because they know they can talk to the younger players,” Berhalter said. “But they also know what the national team is about and they know the history of the national team and that’s important. So, Jozy has been good, it’s been great having him in camp.”

But Berhalter also said he wanted players that are motivated, and that applies to every player, including Altidore.

“We want players that are striving to be starters. We don’t want players that are comfortable playing a substitute role,” Berhalter said. “We want them pushing to be starters but the competition is good for the team.”

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One player that won’t be available for selection against T&T is winger Jordan Morris, who left camp to complete his loan move to English Championship side Swansea City. Berhalter indicated he was in favor of the move, saying Morris is “going to be in good hands.”

“This is what Jordan was striving for,” said Berhalter about the loan. “And for Jordan, this is an opportunity now to help his team potentially get promoted and that’s a great achievement in soccer. The automatic promotion is one thing, and the [promotion] playoff game is the most expensive game in the world, right? So this will be a great challenge for Jordan, [and a] great challenge for the club of Swansea, to see if they can get into the Premier League this year.”

One certainty to come out of Sunday’s match will be that a goalkeeper will make his international debut. All three keepers on the U.S. roster — the New England Revolution‘s Matt Turner, San Jose Earthquakes keeper JT Marcinkowski, and the Philadelphia Union‘s Matt Freese — have yet to appear for the U.S. But based on Berhalter’s comments, Turner, who also was called up for the January camp in 2020, appears to have the inside track to start against the Soca Warriors.

“Matt certainly has improved. I think it’s night and day, compared to him [in the] last January camp,” said Berhalter. “He had, I think, the reflexes last January, but now his whole game has improved and you can see he’s gained confidence and that whole season behind him has really improved him. He’s looking sharp.

“In the games, he’s made some big saves and that’s really a hallmark of what we know Matt to be able to do is the big save ability. And then he needs to continue to work with his feet, continue to improve the build up from the goalkeeper, but he’s doing a great job. We really happy with him.”