Ecuador v United States

Thinking about the memorable U.S. men’s hat tricks


Chris Wondolowski’s three goals Tuesday against Belize will hardly go down as one of the top hat tricks in a U.S. shirt. I mean … Belize, for Pete’s sake!

Still, a hat trick is a hat trick, a credible achievement for anyone internationally, regardless of the opposition. So, good on ya, Wondo.

It did set my mind to “wonder” on the subject of hat tricks for the men’s national team. Here are the top three as far as I can recall:

1. Jozy Altidore vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 2009:

The striker’s big night at LP Field in Nashville was significant for two reasons. First, it was in final round World Cup qualifying, fairly early in the process. So this was no ordinary achievement in some meaningless win.

Second, Altidore was the youngest U.S. man to ever hit for three in a match; He was 19 at the time. Talk about “sign of things to come,” eh?

(MORE: Talking about Altidore’s move to Sunderland, which is all about soccer)

2. Eddie Johnson vs. Panama in 2004:

Johnson was just a 20-year-old up-and-comer, relatively anonymous, when he took the RFK Stadium field on a brilliant October night in the nation’s capital. But he left as U.S. Soccer’s next great scoring hope, by then established forever as the first U.S. man to record a hat trick as a substitute. He hit for three in the final 25 minutes of a 6-0 win against Panama in World Cup qualifying ahead of Germany 2006.

That night went a long way to getting Johnson a seat on Bruce Arena’s charter into Germany some 19 months later.

3. Landon Donovan vs. Ecuador in 2007:

Donovan had the captain’s armband for still-new manager Bob Bradley in Tampa when he struck for three against Ecuador. It was just a friendly, but what distinguished this hat trick was the sumptuous quality of the goals. His first was stinging left-footed volley, followed by a classic Donovan burst in behind the defense that was punctuated by a calm, savvy finish, followed by a gorgeous right-footed ballistic smash into the upper corner. Donovan was fantastic around the goals, too, truly one of his top performances. And that is saying something, especially as Donovan once had a four-goal game (vs. Cuba in a Gold Cup rout similar to last night’s).

Here are Donovan’s three goals that day in Tampa.


“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.