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)

La Liga roundup: Celta spoil Hazard’s return in Real Madrid draw

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Real Madrid’s draw against relegation-battling Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo 

Celta’s Santi Mina scored in 85th minute to give a depleted Celta Vigo a precious point at the Santiago Bernabeu, spoiling Eden Hazard‘s return to Real Madrid’s lineup after a notable absence.

Madrid’s eighth draw of the season moves champions Barcelona just one point behind Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Returning from ankle injury that kept his out of action for three months, Hazard returned to the pitch in fine style, leading all players on the field in chances created with three and earning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Real Madrid ahead.

Hazard – and all of his flair – left the field in the 70th minute, granting Vinicius Junior the final 20 minutes of the match.

Ramos’ sixth goal of the season builded on Toni Kroos’ left-footed strike early in the latter half of the match. Real Madrid, more or less, were cruising against Celta, who had a goal to their name following Fyodor Smolov’s early opener.

Celta, who had arrived in Madrid in 18th place and had lost their last seven at the host’s home, were destined to do the unthinkable. Denis Suarez and Mina – both utilized as substitutes – paired up for the equalizer with five minutes to go, spoiling Hazard’s return.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol

Leganes 0-0 Real Betis 

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Osasuna

Teammates appear to stop Marega leaving after racist slurs

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LIBSON, Portugal — FC Porto striker Moussa Marega, who tried to walk off the field after being the target of racist slurs from fans, faced apparent attempts Sunday by his own teammates and opposition players to prevent him from leaving.

Marega, who is black and from Mali, was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored Porto’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães in the Portuguese football league.

But when Marega started to walk off the field, several players from both Porto and Guimarães appeared to argue with him. Porto coach Sérgio Conceição also went on the field and spoke with Marega.

It took Marega several minutes to leave the field when he was substituted.

Marega held his thumbs down at the crowd as he went into the tunnel to the changing rooms. The crowd responded with loud jeers.

The attitude of the other players has drawn criticism on social media.

“We are indignant with what has happened. Moussa was insulted from warmups (before kickoff),” Conceição said after the match.

“We are a family. One’s nationality, color, or height does not matter. We are human beings. We deserve respect and what happened was despicable.”

Marega received a yellow card following his goal in the 61st minute when he appeared to respond to the slurs by pointing at his skin and by picking up a seat that had been thrown on the pitch.

Timothy Weah returns to action with Lille after lengthy| absence

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Timothy Weah was back in action in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille on Sunday after a 183-day absence.

The American attacker played the final 10 minutes of the defeat after being inactive since Lille’s second match of the season back in August 17 in which he suffered a “very bad hamstring tear“.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Weah arrived at Lille in June on a $12 million deal from Paris Saint-Germain, placing high expectations on the 19-year-old son of Ballon d’OR winner George Weah.

Since, however, the U.S. men’s national team player has had little activity with the French side, accumulating less than 100 minutes over a three-game stretch.

Lille manager Christophe Galtier will likely ease Weah’s way into the a starting role moving forward – which is largely contingent on his performances at practice and in official play.

Lille, who’ve accumulated 40 points in 25 matches, are currently fourth in Ligue 1.

WATCH: Ashley Young opens his Inter Milan account with volley

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The first English goalscorer in Serie A this decade is 34-year-old Ashley Young.

Inter Milan’s newly-integrated wingback opened his Serie A account in proper fashion – scoring with a first-time right-footed volley strike against a strong Lazio side.

Why did Manchester United let Young walk away from Old Trafford during the winter transfer window? Surely, Young will answer that in detail when the time is right. At this moment, he’s too busy scoring goals – stellar ones, too – as we can see for ourselves above.

Young arrived at Inter in January on a reported $2-million deal for the remainder of the season, with an option to extend for another season.