It has been a challenging season for both Jozy Altidore and Sunderland this year, as Sunderland has struggled in the EPL and Altidore has not performed up to some lofty expectations that fans and pundits alike had for his first season with the Black Cats.
The team’s struggles under former manager Paolo Di Canio, whose managerial reign lasted only 175 days have been well documented, and since he was sacked Sunderland has been fighting to recover valuable points that could keep them out of the relegation zone and in the EPL next season. With an extremely tight race at the bottom of the table, every point has been critically important for the likelihood that they avoid the drop.
Altidore has struggled individually in similar fashion to how the team has struggled overall. After an incredible season with AZ Alkmaar last year where he bagged 31 goals in all competitions and an extremely successful summer with the US National Team where his play was a major factor in the success that the US had with 2014 World Cup qualifying, expectations were that Altidore would be a major factor for Sunderland as they pushed out of the bottom half of the table and perhaps even challenged for a top 8 spot.
Unfortunately Altidore struggled to receive quality service for the first part of the season, which clearly frustrated him, and has had a major impact on his confidence, which is always tough on a player. So far this season he has only scored twice, a massive drop in production which cannot be fully placed on him. Lately, Sunderland has been playing much better but Altidore has still looked short of confidence, especially in front of the goal. His overall work rate, hold up play, and passing have improved of late though, and he looks as if he just needs a nice finish or lucky bounce to get him back rolling on one of his patented goal scoring hot streaks.
Sunderland has managed to perform quite well in the Capital One Cup even with their struggles in the EPL, knocking off Southampton, Chelsea, and Manchester United in the past three rounds to get to the final, taking out both Chelsea and United in extra time in riveting performances. The semi-final matches against United were especially impressive, as they needed extra time and penalties to clinch their spot in the final against Manchester City. City is a formidable opponent to say the least, as they are competing for the EPL title as well, with stars like Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero leading the way. City is certainly a favorite in this match up, as the level of talent they have at their disposal dwarfs that of Sunderland and their performance this season has been consistently much stronger than Sunderland.
This does open the door to the possibility of an upset though, even with Sunderland being given nearly 8.5 to 1 odds of actually being able to pull this off, according to this link while City are the strong favorite at 1/3 odds, meaning that if you wanted to wager on Jozy coming through in the clutch for Sunderland in the Capital One Cup Final, you could put down $20 and win nearly $200 if Sunderland could pull off the massive upset. It wouldn’t fully be a shock though, as Sunderland’s form of late has been much improved and Manchester City has been very inconsistent on the road throughout the season, and with this match being played in London, City will not have the comforts of the Etihad Stadium. Sunderland have already disposed of Chelsea and Manchester United leading up to the final, so a shock victory behind an Altidore goal or two might not be so far off after all. March 2nd at Wembley will be where it is all decided and Sunderland will get their opportunity to take on Man City with the cup on the line.