Jozy Altidore's narrative was slipping away from him. Painfully, he'd gone from the big next thing to the next Freddy Adu - a synonym for talent wasted, in just three years.
It was the summer of 2011. Altidore was only 21, but it had been three years since his $10 million transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Villarreal in Spain that made him the most expensive American of all time. He'd warmed the bench for Villarreal and endured a brief loan to Xerez in that first year. In his second year he was loaned Hull City of the Premier League : there he got into trouble for tweeting, arriving late to games, and was sent back to Spain early. He scored just once in 28 appearances. In his third year, he played in a dozen games each for Villarreal and Bursaspor of the Turkish league, on yet another loan, without making much of a dent.
The facts were stark. Fans back home had already written him off.
Fourteen months on, the 22-year-old Altidore is a changed player, a credit to ...