Most Americans will agree, Jozy Altidore’s second effort at the Premier League isn’t exactly going according to plan.
Since arriving at Sunderland this summer from Dutch club AZ for a fee of $9.6 million pounds, Altidore has gone scoreless in his first 10 Premier League matches.
It’s a run of form that is strangely reminiscent of Altidore’s first taste of the English top-flight back in 2009-10 when he scored merely one goal in 28 appearances while on loan with Hull City.
But it’s also a run of form that’s completely at odds with the American striker’s national team form, having scored eight goals in his last 10 games for the Stars & Stripes.
How to make sense of these polar opposite goal-hauls gel is perplexing. So is it time to panic at the Stadium of Light?
‘Absolutely not,’ is the response from Black Cats manager Gustavo Poyet.
“Sometimes it is hard — it is very easy to look at a player and say: ‘Oh, he doesn’t score goals.’ But sometimes you have to look at how you play, especially if that player has scored in other teams and not in yours.”
“In a situation like this, I always analyze myself when I used to play,” Poyet said. “What worked for me as a player? Well, I needed crosses, so the worst team I played in was my national team.
“In my national team in the years that I played, we were a team that played through the middle — we never played the ball out wide. No wingers. That meant we weren’t crossing and that meant I could not score. I was rubbish!
“So then people would be saying: ‘Why is it that he is scoring so many goals in Europe when he can’t score for the national team?’ And the answer was simple — different teams. The Uruguay team’s style did not suit my game and this is my point at Sunderland. We need to find a style and a system which plays to the strengths of our best players.
“If you don’t do that for Jozy, then it is going to be difficult for him to score and we will work on that.”
Poyet’s words make plenty of sense and the Uruguayan’s patience will undoubtedly endear him to the Yank faithful, who so desperately want to see their star striker produce at the highest level.
Despite his lack of goals, Altidore has performed well for Sunderland and seems to be striking up a nice partnership with Steven Fletcher.
If Poyet can manage to get Altidore service from wingers like Emanuele Giaccherini and Adam Johnson, one should expect the scoring tides to turn sooner rather than later.
Per the report, Mourinho has spoken to Rooney’s advisers and has told them he can not guarantee the England national team captain a starting role.
There’s no doubting Rooney’s huge impact at United over the past 12 years since he arrived at Old Trafford. He’s won five Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title, two League Cups and an FA Cup.
Rooney is also just three goals shy of breaking the all-time club record for number of goals scored — he has scored 246 times for United in all competitions — which Sir Bobby Charlton has held for over 40 years and although he has this season plus two more on his huge contract, it seems like he’s reaching a major crossroads in his career.
Even if he is willing to stick around for the final years of his playing days and get stuck into a bit-par role a la Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, you know that Rooney will still make an impact.
The Englishman is stuck in a rut but so are United.
If fit, it would be very surprising to not see him feature heavily in the next few days as United host bitter rivals Manchester City in the EFL last 16 on Wednesday and then Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports).
Alexis Sanchez was Arsenal’s second-leading scorer as the Gunners finished second in the Premier League, and the South American attacker scored three goals as Chile won its second-straight Copa America, this one on American soil. It’s baffling that he’s not on the list.
N'Golo Kante enjoyed a season as the engine of the best story in Premier League history, manning the midfield for Leicester, and followed it up by helping France reach the EURO 2016 final. Pretty good, right?
Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic were key pieces in Barcelona’s run to the La Liga crown despite being limited by the transfer ban. Mascherano followed it up by captaining Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final, while Rakitic starred alongside Ivan Perisic as Croatia won a tricky EURO 2016 group before falling to eventual winners Portugal.
Harry Kanemay’ve not been a good choice to take corner for England, but he also was one of the best all-around attackers in the world as Tottenham surged into the Top Four of the Premier League.
With four goalkeepers making the cut, it shows that club success is more important than performance. David De Gea‘s season was certainly on the same plane as Buffon, though the latter won the league with Juventus and edged Spain at EURO 2016.
Marcelo, Leonardo Bonucci, and David Silva were also players who succeeded for both club and country and could’ve found their way onto the 30.
— I got 24 on the nose, wrongly guessing that Kante, Kane, Alexis, Mascherano, Rakitic, and Olivier Giroud would make the cut. Giroud led Arsenal and France in scoring, but if Alexis wasn’t going to make it the coiffed Frenchman had no hope.
— Of the six I didn’t get, only one brings me great shame: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should’ve been in the first 15 names on any list, not missing the post entirely. Paulo Dybala is a bit of a shocker from the crew, and Koke is a tricky miss. Luka Modric was our No. 31, while Rui Patricio was our 35. Diego Godin was a bad miss.
— What to learn from this: Atletico Madrid was obviously credited for its return to the UCL final, so Godin and Koke prove that carried a bit more weight than Kante and Giroud making the final with France, and Alexis thriving at the Copa America.
Columbus: 2016 was Gregg Berhalter’s third season in charge in Columbus, and in each of his first two years, Crew SC took a gigantic step forward — from non-playoff side to in the playoffs in 2014; from young, naive playoff team to MLS Cup hosts in 2015 — which meant 2016 was supposed to be the culmination of a truly great revolution in Columbus.
They started the season slow, with no wins in their first five games. But they had done the same thing just 12 months earlier and there they were playing for the Cup in December. The Crew looked to be slowly turning this season’s corner when the Kei Kamara/Federico Higuain thing exploded and effectively ended their season in May.
The big knock on Crew SC last year, at least for me, was that they never seemed to figure out a Plan B — if “hit it long for Kei, he’ll knock it down, and Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram will run onto it and toss the alley-oop back to him inside the six” wasn’t working, you’d already beaten them.
2016 exposed Berhalter, perhaps more than any player on the roster, because of the elongated nature of those struggles — literally the entire season. Finlay (6 goals, 9 assists) and Meram (5 goals, 13 assists) put up fine numbers once again, but they rang hollow for a losing team going nowhere all season long.
Wil Trapp’s age-23 season was completely wasted — he’s no longer “a young player” — and I’d take a long, hard look at Europe this winter if I were him. The defense has been an unmitigated disaster the last two season (53 and 58 goals conceded), mostly due to the all-out attacking nature of Berhalter’s game plans — hint: defending 2-on-4 against counter-attacks almost never ends well. The “other” Kamara, Ola, actually panning out was the saving grace that kept them within a mile of the playoff race.
Portland: Maybe it’s an odd year thing; Portland won the 2015 MLS Cup after claiming the West’s best record in 2013.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Timbers ran out of luck under newly-extended Caleb Porter in his fourth season on the job. This time, no one bailed them out.
Portland came out of nowhere to claim the West’s No. 1 seed in 2013, as Porter engineered an astounding 15 draws including 10 on the road. The tactics and lineup selection helped, but so did the arrivals of Diego Valeri and Will Johnson (pretty important, no?).
The Timbers missed the playoffs by a point in 2014, a 3W-1D end to the season not enough to make up for a horrible start to the season.
The next season saw the Timbers win it all, but not without needing a three-match winning streak to leap ahead of four teams and claim the third-seed (Seattle, LA, and KC all finished two points back). Six games later, they went from almost out to on top of the MLS world.
So what happened this year, with many falling all over ourselves to praise the long-term prospects of a Timbers dynasty? A giant failure. The Timbers failed to win a single road game, tossing aside their strong home field advantage (Portland was 12W-3L-2T at Providence Park).
The Timbers scored the second-most penalties in the league this year, with five, so it’s not like fortune avoided them (The Red Bulls didn’t score one).
But, oh, this was ugly.
Portland took three of its the final 12 points available to it. The Timbers lost big in Vancouver and Houston, two non-playoff destinations. In its last 13 games, Portland lost nine and won four.
The Timbers completed the fewest passes in Major League Soccer, 400 less than the closest competitor and 4,300 behind the league-leading Revs. Portland couldn’t take the ball away, either, with the second-fewest interceptions in the league.
You could even argue that losing 4-1 in Vancouver on Decision Day — a loss to a knocked-out Cascadia Cup rival — makes it worse than Columbus’ season alone. This was awful stuff, albeit schadenfreude for the anti-Porter brigade.
Oh, and they bombed out of a poor CONCACAF Champions League group without a Liga MX or MLS opponent in it.
Every champion has a target on its back but the Timbers managed to essentially bring back all of its key starters from a season ago, despite losing Maxi Urruti. The Timbers were involved in 22 games separated by one goal or less in 2016, with Caleb Porter’s side winning only seven of those contests. Had one more game gone in their favor the Timbers would likely be back in the postseason.