Even though it was only a pre-season match, rookie forward Josmer Altidore played in his first game in a MetroStars uniform on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2006. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

This story originally was posted on BigAppleSoccer.com Feb. 12, 2006.

By Michael Lewis

BRADENTON, Fla. — Josmer Altidore missed his morning high school classes on Friday, but he probably had one of the most unusual excuses for a 16-year-old.

He had to play a game with a professional soccer club.

In fact, it was his first game.

OK, OK, it was only a pre-season match, but the MetroStars’ second-round draft choice certainly wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to strut his self for the big club.

“Way too good to pass up,” he said after the Metros’ 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy Friday.

“They know what my position is here. They know that I have to be here to earn a spot. So they let me off.”

The 5-10, 175-pound Altidore, who is attending school down here while working his skills at the U.S. Under-17 residency camp at IMG, started the game alongside Youri Djorkaeff. He didn’t score, but that certainly wasn’t a concern.

“I felt pretty relaxed,” he said. “Me coming out here, some guys feel a little nervous, but the guys made me feel right at home, the older guys. Putting me with Youri on top, I felt confident.”

Altidore had his hands full with the Crew’s 6-foot-3, 190-pound defender Chad Marshall. Scoring chances for him were far and few between.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I thought I did OK for the most part. I think I have to have a little more work ethic. I’ve got to help out a little more.”

Hey, remember, the kid’s still in high school. Even more so than most other players, just about everything is a learning experience for Altidore, who won’t join the Metros on a permanent basis for the rest of the MLS season until school is out.

In fact, asked what he had learned, Altidore replied: “You’ve got to be patient. If you keep going, going and going, you’re going to be broken down instead of breaking the other team down. You’ve got to go out there move the ball, possess it and find the holes.”

Still, Metros coach Mo Johnston feels he’s got a special player.

“Altidore is a rocket,” he said. “He’s going to be a good player. You see little flashes of certain things. Today, obviously wasn’t as productive as he would have liked. But it’s always good getting him into the lineup. I wanted to see what his movement was. i want him to work on certain things.”

Djorkaeff saw some promise as well.

“I do not know much about him, but you can tell that he has some skill for such a young player,” he said. “I hope he can help this club in the future.”