Let’s spin the wheel again on U.S. striker Jozy Altidore

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If we can put aside all the standard debating points regarding Jozy Altidore, indulge me in sharing three things I know for certain about the AZ Alkmaar and U.S. international forward.

No. 1: I like the guy. Every now and then, I’ve had to write something that leaned toward unfavorable about a performance, but that’s the profession. Personally, I’ve always found the guy to be helpful, engaging and pretty sharp. In interviews, he actually says something, which isn’t always the case with athletes, as we know.

No. 2: Plenty of athletes get involved in charity, but there are two very different approaches to it. One set is OK with making the appearances, being where they need to be, when they need to be there – so long as someone else handles the legwork. As long as it’s fairly simple, they dutifully fulfill their obligations.

The other set actually finds ways to invest themselves. I’m not saying they go hammer nails for the latest safe housing project in Central America. But they do find avenues into personal involvement. It helps when they identify something that reaches them, something about which they feel personally connected. Altidore and his Haitian relief efforts strike me this way. I respect that.

No. 3. Where passionate supporters and media groupthink conspire, things can sometimes go very wrong. To wit (and something Altidore himself has pointed out), when the masses began writing off a 19- or 20-year-old forward as a failed bit, that’s just silly. That’s a guy that, in the traditional American sporting arc, would just be launching his professional career.

Altidore addresses this, again, in a good piece from Leander Schaerlaeckens.

And there’s lots of “inside soccer” stuff, too. Altidore, 22, talks about his good fortune in arriving into the Netherlands, where they value the game’s technical points.  For instance:

We spend a lot of time in training just getting better at our trades and that’s different from around the world. But we work on the little things: timing, how to time your runs off the winger, whether to cut to the first post or second post.”

VIDEO: Pedro scores stunning goal for Chelsea

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Not a bad way to start the Premier League weekend…

12 minutes into the first game of Matchweek 9, Chelsea’s Pedro curled home a stunning effort into the far corner and off the far post after a corner was played short to him.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A simply stunning goal from the Spaniard which you can watch in the video above.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Watford in top five clash

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Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as fifth and fourth clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea are without a win in three games in all competitions and some pressure is starting to build on the Blues as they’ve fallen further behind the two Manchester clubs atop the PL table.

As for Watford, Marco Silva‘s men are in fourth place and aiming to keep up their impressive away form in the PL this season with three of their four wins coming on the road.

In team news Chelsea’s injuries are piling up with Victor Moses and N'Golo Kante missing but Alvaro Morata does start after recovering from his hamstring injury, while Watford start Troy Deeney up top after his impressive cameo against Arsenal last week.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Musonda, Willian, Batshuayi

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra, Deeney, Richarlison. Subs:

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!