Has Jozy Altidore’s Premier League legacy damaged the reputation of US players?

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With Jozy Altidore’s move back to Major League Soccer confirmed on Friday, my thoughts immediately switched to the legacy he will leave behind in the Premier League following two goals in 68 appearances with Hull City and, most recently, Sunderland.

[ RELATED: Altidore swap confirmed ]

Altidore, 25, arrived at the Stadium of Light with the world at his feet in July 2013 as he signed for the Black Cats from AZ Alkmaar in a $13 million deal after becoming the highest scoring U.S. player in Europe in history (31 goals with AZ in 2012-13) and was supposed to be Paolo Di Canio’s main striker up top.

But within a month the manager who bought him was fired and Altidore’s confidence in front of goal plummeted throughout his 18-month spell on Wearside. In the end, he quite simply had to get out of England. For most of his stay at Sunderland, home fans were supportive and genuinely wanted him to succeed. But after being given numerous chances to shine by incoming boss Gus Poyet, Altidore failed to take any of them despite brief glimpses of hope.

[ RELATED: Klinsmann: “Altidore good for 4, 5 goals at World Cup” ]

Being in England throughout Altidore’s time at Sunderland and watching his career slowly unravel from a forward going through a sticky patch to him being labelled the worst signing and/or striker in PL history, it was tough to see a man who we’ve all seen flourish time and again with the U.S. national team struggling through one cameo display after another. But the bigger issue here is about the legacy Altidore has left behind for U.S. players aiming to make a career in the Premier League. Has his lack of goals and shocking misses for Sunderland impacted the reputation of American players in England?

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Altidore’s struggles at Sunderland were much talked about in England.

Maybe. Maybe not. Most coaches, pundits and fans in the PL may just look at it as Altidore had a bad spell and every player should be judged on their individual merits. But there’s still a stigma which remains surrounding American players in England, and Europe, for that matter. Altidore’s dreadful time in the PL will only act to reinforce the fact that U.S. players still have a long way to go in order to gain the respect of the so-called “soccer nations” as time goes on.

After Altidore recently missed from four-yards out for Sunderland during their 1-1 draw with West Ham United in December, the U.S. striker was hammered by the press in the UK. Sadly, it was not for the first time. The Sky Sports panel obliterated Altidore in this rant, for failing to not convert the simple tap-in. National TV and radio shows have all jumped on the bandwagon and I’ve lost count of the number of times I tried to defend Altidore’s performances in press boxes to English journalists who asked things like “is he this bad for the USA?” or “he has to be the worst player in PL history, right?”

[ RELATED: Geoff Cameron: Hazard “best I’ve played against” in PL ]

Altidore definitely isn’t the worst player in Premier League history, but the sad fact is that the general population will forget his incredible performance for Sunderland away at Newcastle during their 3-0 derby win last January and the penalty he won at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea when Sunderland inflicted Jose Mourinho’s only home defeat in the PL as Chelsea boss. So, Altidore has shown brief glimpses of the influential player he can be, but it happened sporadically throughout his 18-month stay at the Stadium of Light.

On his unveiling with Toronto FC, here’s what Altidore had to say about his struggles with Sunderland.

“As a professional, there are going to be times when everything is not perfect,” Altidore said. “In those times, how you react to those moments will define you. For me, it was a very difficult time for a number of reasons on and off the field in England. But I have a great support system in my family and I was still able to perform at the highest level with the U.S. national team.”

Sure he didn’t score much, but there’s more to his game than that. When I asked Jurgen Klinsmann about Altidore’s situation at Sunderland following the New Jersey native netting a penalty in the USA’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Colombia last November, the USMNT head coach was adamant Altidore would have scored 4-5 goals at the World Cup and made a huge difference had he not pulled his hamstring in the opening game vs. Ghana. Cue mumbled laughs from some sections of the assembled press, both U.S. and English.

[ RELATED: Altidore misses sitter for Sunderland vs. West Ham ]

When confident and given the ability to be the main man, Altidore can deliver what you ask of him. He can hold up the ball, bring others into the game, run at defenses and, yes, score goals. But now he has left the PL and returned to the relative warm cocoon of MLS where his career began with the New York Red Bulls and everyone expects him to score bucket loads of goals for Toronto, what reputation is he leaving behind in the PL for U.S. players?

I’d argue it is a damaged one. Not because he didn’t try hard or he sulked when things went wrong. It was just the sheer lack of nous and confidence he possessed in front of goal, but perhaps that was to be expected as plenty of players stepping up from scoring goals in the Dutch Eredivisie in the past have struggle to adapt to the PL. Altidore wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to challenge himself to play in the best league and not quite make the cut. But the likes of Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride and Landon Donovan have all helped to pave the way for American players to have a career in the PL. Given his poor displays, whether it’s his fault or not, Altidore could see all of that hard work from those aforementioned stars take a hit.

Maybe Altidore’s poor displays in the PL won’t harm the image of American players to the English, European and global audience who tune in every week to watch in their hundreds of millions. I hope not.

But maybe the next generation of American youngsters playing in England like DeAndre Yedline, Emerson Hyndman or even Gedion Zelalem will now have to deal with jibes of “ah, he’s just another Altidore” every time they put a foot wrong. Whether or not it’s his fault, Altidore’s legacy in England may have harmed the future of U.S. players heading to the Premier League. Then again, maybe it was just the wrong player signing for the wrong club at the wrong time.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Breaking down Matchweek 2

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe recap the key events from Matchweek two of the Premier League focusing on the thrilling 2-2 draw between Manchester City and Tottenham including yet another dramatic decision by VAR hurting City (0:30).

The Robbies also discuss Manchester United’s draw at Wolves (8:30), Liverpool’s win at Southampton (16:15), Frank Lampard‘s home debut as Chelsea manager ending in a 1-1 draw with Leicester (20:05) and Arsenal’s win against Burnley (27:05). Plus, the chaps touch on the rest of the results and share their underappreciated performances of the week (29:35).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Plus you can also watch the show by clicking play on the video above.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Why Christian Pulisic chose Chelsea over Man United

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Christian Pulisic had plenty of offers on the table when it was clear he was going to leave Borussia Dortmund last fall, but one of them was immediately crossed out for one reason and one reason only.

Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch

Pulisic’s former coach at Brackley Town, Robin Walker, spoke to The Telegraph about how the USMNT player came to sign for Chelsea over United and how his father didn’t want him to sign for Man United. Pulisic spent a year playing for Brackley Town when his parents moved to England as his mother was on a teaching exchange program.

“He wouldn’t go to Manchester United because of Jose Mourinho,” Walker said. “His father couldn’t stand Mourinho, because he didn’t promote young players. It was at that point I asked: ‘What about London? That’s where it’s at.’ I was trying to sell the city. His agent agreed, saying: ‘When you make these decisions, it’s all about investment and property.’ I was delighted that he did sign [for Chelsea].”

Walker is a Chelsea fan and was ecstatic that Pulisic, 20, signed for the Blues, and although many people believed heading to Chelsea wasn’t the best move for the USMNT star, it looks like it could be a shrewd decision.

Mourinho obviously left Man United last December, but by then the wheels were already in motion for Pulisic to sign for Chelsea and with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only a caretaker boss of the Red Devils at that point, he wasn’t going to get $73 million to spend on a January signing.

It is true that Mourinho has been known to stall the careers of several stars, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku to name a few, but it is also true that Chelsea has stockpiled that kind of talent and struggled to develop these mercurial talents.

Since Pulisic signed for Chelsea in January and was then loaned back to Dortmund for the rest of the 2018-19 season, Maurizio Sarri has departed and Frank Lampard arrived with a transfer ban also coming in. That means Pulisic will get more minutes due to new players not being bought and Lampard is also keen on promoting youngsters.

That said, there is one part of this story which may sit a little uneasy with USMNT fans. Pulisic’s agent reportedly saying that ‘when you make these decisions, it’s all about investment and property.’

Shouldn’t it be about being the best place for Pulisic to develop as a player?

The American winger has shown flashes of brilliance in his first few months as a Chelsea player and it will be intriguing to see how often he plays now that Willian is back fully fit, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also pushing their way back to full fitness.

Man United players slam “disgusting, pathetic” racist abuse of Pogba

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Manchester United star Paul Pogba was racially abused on social media after having his penalty kick saved in the 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

United have issued a statement slamming the racist abuse, as Harry Maguire called it “disgusting” and led calls for Twitter and Instagram to take strong stances against those making racist comments on social media.

“Everyone at Manchester United is disgusted by the racial abuse aimed at Paul Pogba last night and we utterly condemn it. The individuals who expressed these views do not represent the values of our great club and it is encouraging to see the vast majority of our fans condemn this on social media also.

“Manchester United has zero tolerance of any form of racism or discrimination and a long-standing commitment to campaigning against it through our #AllRedAllEqual initiative. We will work to identify the few involved in these incidents and take the strongest course of action available to us. We also encourage social media companies to take action in these cases.”

This racist abuse of Pogba follows Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham also being targeted after his penalty kick was saved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool last Wednesday, and comes after Chelsea banned one fan for life after the racist abuse of Man City’s Raheem Sterling during a game at Stamford Bridge last season.

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri diagnosed with pneumonia

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus says coach Maurizio Sarri has been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The 60-year-old Sarri was unable to take training with the Italian champion on Monday because he has been struggling with the flu for the past week.

The club said he underwent further tests which confirmed he has pneumonia, for which specific therapy was prescribed.

Sarri left Chelsea in the offseason to take charge of Juventus. His first Serie A game in charge is at Parma on Saturday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports