Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP

Unyielding dominance: Jozy Altidore thunders TFC to MLS Cup Final

Leave a comment

Jozy Altidore took brash to the next level, in turn driving Toronto FC to its first MLS Cup final.

The American striker knew his team was down 3-2 after one leg. He also knew that Montreal’s defenders didn’t like his physical play in Quebec.

So he dug in.

[ MATCH RECAP: Toronto 5-2 (7-5 agg.) Montreal ]

Altidore told Montreal defender Victor Cabrera to “do more curls”, unapologetic for using his massive frame and electric athleticism to boss the Impact’s back line.

When play opened at a raucous BMO Field on Wednesday, Altidore delivered an irrepressible performance. From minute one, the 27-year-old USMNT striker was throwing his body around and daring someone to catch it.

This wasn’t the man who struggled to justify his $13 million price tag at Sunderland; It was the evolution of a man who bagged goals for fun at AZ Alkmaar and has a legit chance to chase down Landon Donovan as the USMNT’s all-time leading goal scorer.

There was Altidore, plowing his way through defenders to catch a ball near the end line and challenge goalkeeper Evan Bush. There he was again, going 100mph into a card-worthy collision with Hernan Bernardello.

And it wasn’t strictly enforcer business. Altidore scored a goal scorer’s goal with his header of a Sebastian Giovinco corner, then supplied an extra time assists as Tossaint Rickets put this one to bed.

Like he had done all season, Altidore celebrated with the fans and praised their fortitude following the win. TFC hadn’t just been bad for most of their existence; The Reds were awful. A passionate fan base had learned to expect very little from big name signings, at least until the past two seasons.

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) reacts after scoring against the Montreal Impact during the first half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

“It’s all for their fans. They suffered a long time. To deliver the type of season we had, it means a lot.”

And the fans had. They needed a bull to pull them through their struggles. While Toronto as a city likes to think of itself as the playmaking wizardry of Sebastian Giovinco, Altidore did it for the blue collar types.

For my Ontario hockey types, he rolled Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, and Gary Roberts into one package, and spit out something Leafs fans haven’t seen since 1967: an appearance in a championship game.

TFC will be at home come Dec. 10, and the focus will be on electric imports Sebastian Giovinco (if he’s healthy) and Nicolas Lodeiro. Fans will bring up the names of Michael Bradley and Jordan Morris.

But it’s the big striker, on the heels of a roller coaster European adventure, who got them there. On Wednesday night in Canada, Josmer Volmy Altidore was an absolute monster.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.

John Cena makes entertaining Premier League predictions

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We do not recommend putting any money on John Cena’s Premier League predictions for this weekend.

The actor and WWE star was the guest picker on the BBC site on Friday, and admitted his soccer knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Cristiano Ronaldo and a tour of Tottenham (he has a fondness for Spurs, it seems).

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

But his actual selections are quite amusing. From picking matches based on species to trying to anger his fiancee’s Arsenal supporting brother, Cena brought the goods.

Our favorites:

Why West Ham will win at Stoke: “Who doesn’t love a good ham? It provides you with nourishment, happiness and a sense of community. It is always served at a big family function gathering. I like West Ham. 0-1.”

Why Southampton will win at Chelsea: “From where I am from, in Massachusetts, Southampton is a pretty cool place, so I am going to have to pick them, only because of how it relates to the States.”