Altidore 8

Four thoughts on Jozy Altidore, a scorer of blazing confidence

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Jozy Altidore just keeps scoring, with a huge hat trick Wednesday, now having struck in a record five consecutive U.S. matches. A foursome of considerations on the recent Sunderland signing:

Altidore is guiding an exciting attack

Two weeks ago we were left to wonder if Clint Dempsey’s surprise move down the world soccer food chain might dilute his drive and subsequently dent the United States attack?

Today, after a reminder of who really is the main man of this mission, maybe a wee downgrade in form or production from Dempsey doesn’t seem so life-altering after all, does it?

Consider what the United States attack now has going for it: Altidore and his blazing confidence at the top, Dempsey lurking in behind, Donovan possibly coming inside from a wide position, Graham Zusi playmaking from the right side and Michael Bradley stitching it all together with his whip-smart blend of safe and adventurous passing.

Not too shabby, eh?

Now, about that back line …

The guy is scoring on free kicks now, too?

Clearly, the man who just moved from Holland’s AZ into a far more pricey neighborhood of the world’s game, Sunderland of the Premier League, has added to his substantial repertoire. A first half free kick wasn’t quite tall enough to evade the Bosnian wall Wednesday.

But Altidore made no mistake with his second attempt from free kick shooting range, placing a ball perfectly into the upper left corner for the third U.S. goal. With Zusi, Donovan and now, apparently, Altidore, the United States has great options on restarts going forward.

The records are falling

Altidore is the first U.S. man to score in five consecutive matches. Remember, that’s a streak that started against none other than Germany, among the World Cup favs. Yes, three of the opponents in this run of scoring fun were CONCACAF teams – but those were in final stage World Cup qualifiers, which means it was the best of the region.

Besides, to begin the streak and end it (well, “end it” for now) against quality European competition stamps this one with a sure legitimacy.

Don’t forget Klinsmann’s man management in all this

It deserves to be said one more time: Klinsmann gets a lot of credit here. He wanted – scratch that, he “demanded” – that Altidore bring out the best in himself. Klinsmann wisely sensed a dangerous sense of satisfaction 14 months ago, a hint of complacency. So he left Altidore back in Europe for those two World Cup qualifiers last fall, dismissing the howls from fans and media, confident in an improved end product.

Clearly, the message was heard. Clearly, Altidore responded perfectly. The dividends are rolling in nicely now.

(MORE: What we learned from Wednesday’s win in Sarajevo)

(MORE: Jozy Altidore hat trick steers U.S. to comeback win)

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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