Big Sunderland match sees 21-year-old get start over Jozy Altidore

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The hits keep on coming for Jozy Altidore, as the out-of-form American striker finds himself on the bench Monday in favor of a 21-year-old striker who’s been loaned out to two teams this year.

Connor Wickham got the start for Sunderland in its huge match against West Ham. The Black Cats entered the game having played two matches less than the teams they are chasing down for Premier League safety, and this is the first of two “matches-in-hand.”

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Wickham had a four-match loan to Leeds United after spending the first half of the season with Sheffield Wednesday. He scored eight times for the Owls in the Championship but has tallied just once in 33 appearances for Sunderland.

Altidore played all 90 minutes in each of Sunderland’s last two matches but was ineffective in both the 2-0 loss at Norwich and a 2-1 loss at Liverpool, but found himself on the outside looking in to start the match against the Hammers.

It’s been a rough, rough go for Altidore up North. He’s scored just once in the Premier League and added two assists in nearly 1700 minutes this season after scoring once and posting seven assists in 1464 minutes last season. His last goal came in December against Chelsea.

His Cup record has been better, scoring in August’s Carling Cup tie against MK Dons as well and posting four assists between the two Cup competitions.

It’s not the end of the world, obviously; Altidore has been¬†getting on the pitch consistently, after all. But it’s a pretty noticeable snub from manager Gus Poyet in a big, big match.

And to be fair, today is Wickham’s birthday.