By Cesar Diaz - NEW YORK, NY (Jun 27, 2012) US Soccer Players -- Anyone who is naïve enough to believe that America will never embrace soccer needs to visit New York City’s US Soccer Way. For soccer fans based in New York City, US Soccer Way is located on 33rd Street. In that one block across the street from the Empire State Building, fans have the option of following their favorite league at the Football Factory at Legends and Jack Dempsey’s.
Last Sunday, soccer fans made a visit to US Soccer Way to watch the Euro 2012 match between the England and Italy. New York Red Bulls supporters were also on hand to take the bus trip to Red Bull Arena for the NY-DC United showdown. Disgusted by the 4-1 thrashing DC unleashed on the Red Bulls earlier in the season, these supporters were itching for payback.
While many were there focusing on Euro 2012, there was another reason to make the trip to Dempsey’s on Sunday – a chance to meet a former Red Bull. Now with AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, Jozy Altidore is coming off of a season where he scored 22 goals and tied for seventh in goals scored in the Eredivisie.
The New Jersey native and US National Team player was on hand to sign autographs and take photos with his fans while raising money for his Foundation. In addition, he will be participating in the fifth annual Steven Nash Foundation Showdown on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.
Altidore returned to a New York soccer community that’s surprisingly tight-knit given the size of the greater metropolitan area. Everyone seems to know each other or someone who knows someone else. That lends a familiarity that was noticeable. As Altidore finished his lunch with his home supporters, topics ranged from the Red Bulls match to whether New York will be awarded a second franchise. Very little was said about Euro 2012 because the 2014 World Cup, CONCACAF Qualifiers, and MLS action had more weight with this crowd.
Once the autograph session commenced, Altidore sincerely appeared to be having a good time as he enthusiastically signed autographs and posed for photos. When asked if he was planning on attending the Red Bulls game later that day, his ‘yes’ got a big response. Even better when he was asked to predict the score and announced ‘9-0 Red Bulls.’
The first memory I have of Altidore was his August 18th 2007 two-goal performance against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the old Meadowlands. With Beckhamania at its peak, more than 66,000 people packed Giants Stadium to witness the Red Bulls win 5-4 against their West Coast rivals. I asked him what he remembers about that game.
“The match against the Galaxy was one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in,” he said. “The atmosphere, the fans, the goals scored in that match and David Beckham’s first MLS match in here was an amazing experience.”
Throughout our small talk, many fans asked him about his experience with the National Team. His response was simple and direct. Representing the United States is an honor for which he’s grateful. Given all that he’s already done in his career, it’s easy to forget that Altidore is only 22. His commitment to charitable causes is impressive for such a young player. His focus is Haiti, the home country of his parents.
It’s been over two years since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti and the country continues a slow recovery. Seeing a need, Altidore decided to start the Jozy Altidore Foundation. With his sister, Lindsey Altidore as president of the Foundation, both are committed to making lives better.
While Altidore spoke about his charity, it was obvious that he takes his role as humanitarian seriously. Along with Lindsey, they explained to me that through Generosity Water, a 501c3 non-profit organization that addresses the water crisis by building wells for clean water, they hope to raise $6000 in three months.
“I may be a young person but I believe it’s never early to want to make a difference,” Altidore said. “The purpose of the foundation is to make a difference. The plan is to begin in Haiti by building a well which will provide clean water for 300-400 people in the area where my mother was born.”
Following our discussion, he continued to sign autographs and take photos with fans. He then watched the England – Italy game with fans at the Football Factory at Legends before heading to Red Bull Arena. Even in a city like New York, this wasn’t a normal Sunday on US Soccer Way.
You can follow Jozy Altidore on Twitter @JozyAltidore. If you wish to make a contribution to his cause, you may do so at https://mygenerositywater.dntly.com/jozyaltidore. If you’re in the NYC area, you have the opportunity to see him compete on Wednesday afternoon at the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in the Lower East Side (at Chrystie and Stanton Streets).
Cesar Diaz is a freelance writer for several online soccer publications. If there's a soccer topic you believe needs to be written about, please feel free to contact him. Easily approachable, you may contact him atCDiazNYC@gmail.com and @CesarDiazNYC.
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