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Profile: Jozy Altidore
The best teenage player in Major League Soccer
By Michael Lewis

Jozy Altidore on the field
Jozy Altidore of the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium, on June 16, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images/NewsCom)
June 26, 2007

The best teenage player in Major League Soccer isn't Freddy Adu.

Not by a long shot. Or even by a short or medium shot, for that matter.

Most knowledgeable soccer observers will tell you that it is New York Red Bulls forward Jozy Altidore, whose bullet shot of his own has allowed him to command the most respect these days.

In a whirlwind professional career that has spanned less than a year, the 17-year-old Altidore already has accomplished the following:

  • He scored three key goals in seven games over the stretch run to boost the Red Bulls into the playoffs. When Altidore scored his first MLS goal—the lone tally in a 1-0 win over Columbus last September 13, he fired home a dramatic 30-yard blast to become the fourth youngest player to score in MLS (16 years, 314 days).

  • He scored the Red Bulls lone playoff goal, becoming the youngest player to score in the playoffs.

  • He has collected three goals and three assists in seven starts over 11 games and 643 minutes through June 26 (Adu, incidentally, has one and two assists in 899 minutes over 10 starts and 11 matches).

  • "I've learned if you're good enough, I guess you're old enough," Altidore said. "Age doesn't really matter. You've just got to be a good soccer player."

    Altidore has the tools to be a big-time goal-scorer in MLS or in Europe. He's big (6-1, 175 lbs). He's physical. And he has some speed.

    "He's got a really good attitude, but he's got to now learn in these years, how to be a better professional," said Red Bulls captain and midfielder Claudio Reyna, former captain of the U.S. National Team. "Being around a lot of us he'll see what it is—to have a long career, you've got to do certain things right. I think he's on that way. Purely physically speaking, he's got the size, strength, pace and he's technically very good. He's a guy who could be a target guy and play a lot of games. I'd be surprised if he doesn't rack up many, many (international appearances) in his career."

    Altidore's goals this season were simple—"to play well and show everyone I wasn't a hoax. I just want to go out there and show what I can do to everybody."

    The scary thing is that he is going to improve.

    No one has to remind Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena of Altidore's potential. But Arena, who has worked with a number of young players through the years, isn't about to rush the man-child.

    "He's doing well. He's still a young kid," he said. "I'm always careful about making rash predictions about young kids. It hurts players psychologically in their development and once you lose your confidence it takes a while to build it back up. We want to give him gradual doses of stress, instead of throwing it all out there at once."

    The other scary thing is how mature Altidore is for his age. He acts and speaks well beyond his 17 years.

    "He's always acted like that," his father Joseph said. "When my wife and I had a disagreement, he was always trying to be a moderator when he was little. He acts older than my 25-year-old."

    On Saturday, June 30, Altidore will worry about his peers. That's when he and his U.S. teammates will embark on a new challenge at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada.