As 2014 approaches, Jozy Altidore might want to consider a New Year's resolution to do a better job with the opportunities that come his way.
The U.S. national team striker earned another start for Sunderland on Sunday, and while he did play the full 90 minutes for the Black Cats in a stirring two-goal comeback that ended in a 2-2 tie against Cardiff City, it was a forgettable showing for Altidore.
His point-blank miss off a rebound in front of goal was brutal for a player struggling to make a consistent impact for a Sunderland team still sitting in last place. Despite that miss, Altidore continued to press on, and while he didn’t look particularly sharp, Sunderland clawed back from 2-0 down with two late goals, including a stoppage-time equalizer that helped push the Black Cats' unbeaten league run to four matches.
That run has Sunderland just two points away from relegation safety, but the pressure will be on Altidore in 2014 to step up his game and improve on the one goal he currently has in league play. New Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has rotated his lineup, leaving Altidore out at times, and the U.S. striker could find himself on the bench more often if he doesn’t sharpen up in the new year.
Altidore was one of a few Americans Abroad to see action this weekend. U.S. teammate Geoff Cameron was another, and his first start of the season at center back was a forgettable one as Stoke City dropped a 3-0 decision to Tottenham for the Potters’ second straight bad loss. Cameron wasn’t directly at fault on any of the three goals, but being part of a defense that has surrendered eight goals in two matches has put a halt to what had been a good season for Cameron and Stoke City.
Neither Maurice Edu or Brek Shea made the substitute’s bench for Stoke City, and both look like safe bets to be leaving the Britannia come January. Edu is all but a lock to depart, while Shea has to be itching for a loan move to secure some playing time, despite a handful of appearances off the bench for the Potters in recent months.
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa put a halt to their four-match losing streak with a 1-1 tie against Swansea City on Sunday. Guzan made two saves for the Villans, who sit in 13th place heading into the new year.
Tim Howard missed Everton’s 2-1 win against Southampton as he served a suspension for the red card he was issued in the Toffees’ 1-0 loss to Sunderland on Boxing Day. Everton moved into fourth place in the Premier League with the Southampton win, but any questions about backup Joel Robles challenging Howard’s place as Everton’s starter were put to rest after he gave up a soft goal.
In the League Championship, Eric Lichaj’s second straight start helped Nottingham Forest post a second straight win, with the 2-1 triumph against Leeds United helping Forest open up a four-point hold on fifth place in the standings. Lichaj had been benched for a stretch, but appears to have regained his hold on a starting spot heading into the new year.
Things aren’t going as well for Danny Williams’ Reading side, which pushed its losing skid to three matches after a 3-0 defeat against Middlesbrough. The defeat has the Royals in ninth place in the League Championship, but just a point out of the promotion playoff places.
Tim Ream and Bolton had a forgettable day on Sunday, dropping a 5-3 decision to league leader Leicester City. The loss dropped Bolton to 18th place in the League Championship, but still seven points clear of the relegation zone.