JOZY ALTIDORE admits the premature end to his World Cup dream was the lowest point of his career.
But the Sunderland striker is eager to make amends by returning to full fitness and proving his credentials at the Stadium of Light next season after enduring such a miserable first year on Wearside.
Altidore’s game-time in Brazil totalled just 23 minutes after suffering a grade two hamstring strain during the USA’s opener against Ghana - an injury which kept him sidelined for the remainder of the tournament.
The injury was all the more frustrating for the 24-year-old, as he had just ended a confidence-draining six-month goal drought after netting a brace in the World Cup warm-up friendly against Nigeria.
Altidore hopes he can set aside that disappointment when he reports back to the Academy of Light at the end of this week, although he is not expected to participate in Sunderland’s opening pre-season friendly at Darlington 1883 on Saturday.
“I’m just focused on getting healthy and back to how I was before the World Cup,” said Altidore, who netted just one Premier League goal for Sunderland after his £7million signing last summer.
“I haven’t felt that good in a while. Everything was clicking for me.
“Now I just want to start the season healthy and focused and hopefully everything will go well.
“I would say the first couple of days (after the injury) were the biggest disappointment in my life as a professional.
“It was incredibly difficult.
“I’d done the injury before in 2011, so realising how it felt, I instantly knew it would be very difficult for me to come back (at the tournament).
“I was just miserable. I’ve never felt so low as a player.
“You look forward to it for so long and I was feeling really good and confident.
“I was excited to give everything for the team, so for that to happen, I don’t really have the words.
“But after a couple of days, you have to understand it’s not about you. It’s about the team.
“You have to try your best to be positive and be the guy who still gives something any way you can.
“The challenge for me was to still be upbeat and give something in other ways.”
Altidore is expected to be almost fully fit by the time he returns to Wearside after a month recovering from injury.
The former AZ Alkmaar frontman had returned to training and was an unused substitute when the USA were knocked out of the World Cup against Belgium a fortnight ago.
But Altidore admits that at that stage in his recovery, he would not have been up to speed if US boss Jurgen Klinsmann had opted to select him.
“I was training with the team, maybe not completely,” Altidore added on Fox Sports.
“I was able, if needed, to make a contribution, although nowhere near the level you need in a World Cup.
“I was not even 80 per cent.
“In any sport, you need a guy who is going to give everything. At this level, you can’t afford to play with 10 players.”