Altidore headed to Hull to prove himself
After a summer of debate and discourse over where he would end up, Jozy Altidore finally has a new home: Hull. For next season at least, the 19-year-old American will ply his trade at the KC Stadium. It will not be easy.
As impressive as it was in the opening half of last season, Hull faded badly in the new year, only avoiding relegation on the final day of the campaign, and will start the new season as one of the favorites to go down. If the British media is to be believed, Everton and Fulham were also in the mix for Altidore and, in that company, the Tigers offered the least attractive option.
However, regardless of the overall fortunes of the team, by joining Hull, Altidore has earned an opportunity to log regular playing time (in a World Cup year) in one of the best leagues in the world. With a multimillion pound move for Bobby Zamora seemingly dead, aside from Daniel Cousin, there are few proven front men in the squad.
In some ways, this move is a win-win for Altidore. If he is successful and scores the goals to keep Hull up, a permanent move may be in the cards, unless Villarreal is so impressed that it recalls him to its first team. If things go well personally but Hull is relegated, his stock will nonetheless be high. Even if he struggles and Hull goes down, Altidore has a full season in England under his belt and, at 20, time still on his side.
Physically, Altidore has all the tools, and his strength and pace will worry many a defender. The area in which his biggest improvement must come is what he does with the ball at his feet. If he can adapt to the speed of play in the Premier League and demonstrate that he can operate as a target man, who can link play when needed (for Hull will play with one up front at times), he can be successful in England.
Of course, a sideshow for any player going to Hull is working for Phil Brown, a manager unlike any other Altidore has experienced in his short professional career. Bob Bradley, he ain't. The Tigers' manager appeared to unravel in the latter parts of last season which, among other incidents, featured a halftime team talk on the field against Manchester City, as well as a number of brushes with his players (just ask Geovanni) and the Football Association.
Despite his tender age, Altidore has consistently demonstrated a maturity level which suggests he is able to handle any situation and continue to get better as a player. His next test will be his biggest but also, quite possibly, his most rewarding.
A thing that made me go 'hmmm '
Curt Onalfo was fired this week after failing to turn Kansas City from a perennial playoff participant into a side that can challenge to win the MLS Cup. The end was bloody, with the axe falling soon after the Wizards were thumped 6-0 by FC Dallas.
Into the hot seat, at least until the end of the season, steps Peter Vermes. Highly regarded as a technical director, the New Jersey native now faces the task of turning around Kansas City's fortunes by getting more out of many of the players, the signings of whom he was the brains behind.
Four of Kansas City's next six games are on the road, and points must be garnered if the Wizards are not to be cast adrift toward the foot of the Eastern Conference. The roster has his mark all over it, so can Vermes get out of his players what Onalfo could not? His own future could depend on how he answers this question.
Well played, old man
Kudos to FC Dallas' Jeff Cunningham who, against the Wizards, became the ninth player in MLS history to score four goals in a game and, in doing so, offered Hoops fans an intriguing look at a promising partnership with David Ferreira. With Kenny Cooper Germany-bound, the combination should continue to blossom as Cunningham gets more time in his best position of central striker, as opposed to the wider role he often occupied earlier in the season.
He might turn 33 later this month but, after bouncing around the league for a while, Cunningham's 2009 form shows he still has much to offer, not least to a Dallas team which, with a couple of more wins and continued improvements at both ends of the field -- Saturday's win was just the second it has achieved with a shutout this year -- could yet make an unlikely push for the postseason.
Maybe it's the heat that has everyone hot under the collar but, in the past two weeks, eight red cards have been shown in 13 matches. Over the previous six weeks, only five players had been sent for an early bath.
Furthermore, my (rough) calculations show that, in MLS in 2009, a player has been sent off every 3.11 games. By way of comparison, in the EPL last season, a red card was issued once every 6.03 matches.