When it comes to the goal scoring, U.S. international Jozy Altidore is pretty much on pace to match last year’s breakout season. The Alkmaar striker had 22 goals across all competitions for the Dutch club last year.
Just back from the Dutch season’s winter break, Altidore has 12 goals in all competitions, including 11 in Eredivisie play. So, individually things look roughly the same – which isn’t bad at all.
But it’s the team ambition that looks quite different at the moment. AZ finished a surprising fourth last year in the 18-team league, a terrific finish for one of Holland’s smaller clubs. This year, AZ is a lot closer to a nasty drop than to heroic challenge for the top; AZ sits 12th now, just three points out of the group that would find itself in a white knuckle playoff to avoid relegation into the Dutch second tier.
I talked to Altidore this morning as part of the Soccer Today show I co-host weekly. Two interesting things from the short interview as they relate to the club:
- First, Altidore told us the feel is a little different heading back into training after the winter break; everyone can already sense the weight of it, the threat the relegation hanging like that proverbial dark cloud. It’s what everyone always says about the lurking relegation monster.
- And, the U.S. striker reminded us that the Dutch table isn’t the only way into European competition. There’s also the Dutch Cup, and his team is into the quarterfinals. They play at FC Den Bosch on Jan. 29 – ironically, kicking off just a few hours before Jurgen Klinsmann’s team of mostly MLS men faces Canada in a friendly. So, the club’s spring goals will be all about avoiding a drop in league play, but gaining a European spot by bringing the “something special” in Dutch Cup matches.
As for a potential transfer, Altidore played it cool, not saying much at all. After what seemed like some initial interest, we aren’t hearing much lately about the 23-year-old forward.
(The Soccer Today podcast should be up some time Monday; I’ll post the link here when the pod goes up.)
The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.
[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]
Three moments that mattered
16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.
33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.
43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.
Man of the match: Luke Mulholland
Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)
Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]
United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.
All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]
Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.
You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.
[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.
[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.
The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.
Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.