Official: Jozy Altidore signs for EPL side Sunderland in $13 million deal

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US national team forward Jozy Altidore is back in the English Premier League.

The 23-year-old striker signed with Sunderland on a four-year deal on Tuesday afternoon, as the Black Cats reportedly paid $13 million to add the prolific striker from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.

If the reported fee is true Altidore has broken his own record for the most money ever spent on a US international, with the old record the $10 million Villarreal paid for him back in 2008.

A move back to the EPL has seemed on the cards for quite some time now, as Altidore smashed home 38 goals in 67 appearances for AZ since 2011. His red-hot form for the US in recent World Cup qualifiers will have helped his case as Altidore has now amassed 17 goals in 60 games for the national team, including four in his last four games.

(MORE: Looking at the city, and how Altidore’s move is all about soccer)

So the big question everyone is asking is can Altidore prosper this time around in England’s top-flight?

He is much better equipped to do so, certainly, but it won’t be any easier than his loan spell with Hull City back in 2009. At that time Altidore was just 19 and was shipped out on loan by Spanish side Villarreal after failing to impress with the Yellow Submarine. It was a tough learning curve for a teenager from Livingston, New Jersey after less than a year away from his home in the US.

Needless to say this opportunity at Sunderland is much different than the one presented to him at Hull. Paolo Di Canio has admired Altidore’s qualities and will strive to get the best out of his endless potential.

(MORE: Where Jozy Altidore’s transfer will rank among major moves for US internationals)

Altidore’s coach at AZ, Gertjan Verbeek, is a hard man to please and Altidore believes he needs a coach that will push him to his maximum… he will certainly get that from Di Canio.

The Italian boss has promised a huge shake up at Sunderland, after he took over towards the end of the 2012-13 season and guided them away from relegation. But Di Canio has acted quickly to rejuvenate the squad, as Altidore is his sixth, and most expensive, addition during the summer transfer window. The New York Red Bulls product will join up with Di Canio and his new team mates at their training camp in Italy later today.

AZ couldn’t stand in Altidore’s way, the opportunity to play in the EPL and be a leading figure for an up and coming side was too big to turn down. Altidore will likely partner Scottish international Steven Fletcher up top, as he aims to hit the ground running back in the EPL after a busy summer with the US national team.

So when NBC’s English Premier League coverage begins in August, US national team fans will now have one more player to look out for in the red and white stripes of Sunderland.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.