NEW YORK (AP) — Jozy Altidore heard the criticism from Iain Dowie, his manager at Hull, and didn't take offense.
"Me and Ian have a good relationship," the 20-year-old American forward said. "He was good when he came in with me, took me under his wing, did a lot of extra sessions, stuff like that."
Altidore will start workouts with the U.S. national team on Monday and figures to start in the team's World Cup opener against England on June 12.
Dowie took over as Altidore's manager on March 17, and had some harsh words for Altidore, who scored just two goals this season.
"Probably he hasn't fulfilled his potential here," the manager was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying last month. "For the level of investment, it's probably not enough."
And that wasn't it.
"I've spoken to Jozy a number of times since I've been here and, if Jozy can train the way he plays, I think he's got a great opportunity, but he needs to understand that it's that day-in, day-out," Dowie said. "He's a lovely, laid-back boy and there's no side to him but he needs to focus on training at a better level."
Jozy was a pussycat is responding to Dowie. He didn't deny pulling back at practice but said he had a good reason.
"For me that was more geared towards, you know, just the pressure of everything and the summer coming," he said. "I was just being extra careful, but in games giving my all. You know what I mean? Because you just have to be smart in the way you handle things. But at the same time I think he's just looking out for my interest, which is good."
Altidore made his national team debut in 2007 and has eight goals in 24 international appearances, including the opener in last June's upset of European champion Spain at the Confederations Cup. He was just 16 when he made his professional debut with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in 2006, then was sold to Spain's Villarreal in June 2008 for about $10 million.
He became the first American to score in La Liga, getting a 90th-minute goal at Athletic Bilbao that November (New Jersey's Giuseppe Rossi plays for Villarreal under an Italian passport), but wound up playing just six matches before he was loaned to second-division Xerez at midseason. He didn't get into another game during the 2008-9 season, then was brought to Hull on a loan last August by then-manager Phil Brown.
The Tigers were terrible, going 6-20-12 in the Premier League, finishing 18th and getting relegated to the League Championship. Altidore's season ended April 24, when he received a season-ending red card for head-butting Sunderland's Alan Hutton, who threw a ball at him and was ejected.
Altidore apologized the following day on his Twitter account.
"It was accidental. It wasn't done on purpose. But I don't think a lot of people understand that — which is fine. I totally understand how it looks," he said Saturday before signing autographs at the Adidas store in Manhattan. "You learn from things like that and move on."
His only goals this season were against Southend on Aug. 25 in the League Cup and against Manchester City in a Premier League match on Feb. 6. He got into trouble last October when he arrived late for a game against Portsmouth, then posted an apology on Twitter. Brown wouldn't let him dress for the match and called the tardiness "unacceptable behavior, full stop."
"I think I adjusted to the league. In the beginning, I was a big topsy-turndown. I don't think I came to grips with the league, with the physicality of it and all that," Altidore said. "I think as it went on and I got more experience, I became more comfortable on the field with my teammates and how the team wanted me to play."
Dutch forward Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, brought in from Glasgow Celtic, also struggled on a Hull team that provided little service, scoring three goals.
"If you look at before he came to Hull, his games-for-goals ratio, he scored in almost every other game," Altidore said. "And so for him to come here and then struggle, you know that it's not only him."
Kids from Athletes for Charity, Hillcrest high school and Yele Haiti asked Altidore questions about playing for the U.S. and Hull and about his family in Haiti before he autographed soccer balls.
His rights revert to Villarreal, but it's not clear whether he will there next season. He won't decide his club future after the World Cup.
While Hull probably will cut payroll as it drops to a lower division following its first two seasons in the top league, he won't rule out a return.
"I don't want to say there's no shot. I mean, Hull, I really enjoyed it," he said. "It's a great place to play. I really enjoyed the fans. I really enjoyed the stadium, the atmosphere, everything. I wouldn't mind going back there."