The English Premier League offers no room for complacency, a point Jozy Altidore would do well to bear in mind this week.
The United States striker made a solid debut for Hull City, setting up the game-winning goal for Kamel Ghilas just seconds after coming on as a substitute in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. However, the EPL rarely hands success on a plate to wide-eyed youngsters like the 19-year-old Altidore.
He will need to earn his stripes in the toughest league in the world.
The huge sums of money at stake and dependent on EPL survival means a "what have you done for me lately" mentality courses through the top division. Altidore, who is on a season-long loan from Villarreal, has made a bright start, but he needs to capitalize on it by working hard and learning quickly. Over the coming weeks, he needs to show he can use his powerful physique effectively and hold off defenders who are determined to make his life a misery.
Many U.S. soccer fans feel the most pressing concern regarding Altidore is his finishing ability. Last Saturday, he wasted two golden chances to put Bolton away.
Yet the biggest issue surrounding Altidore is whether he has the physical perseverance and mental strength to hang tough in the EPL. Hull will be a difficult learning curve and victories like Saturday's could be few and far between.
If Altidore finds the courage and confidence to stand tall and back his body against the league's leading defenders, he may just find himself a niche in the EPL. And Hull, one of the preseason relegation favorites, may have landed itself a bargain.
Weekend First XI
1. Get him an Advil
Jose Mourinho could barely control his frustration after Inter Milan's miserable 1-1 draw against Bari to start the new season. Mourinho was dismayed that the club's hierarchy refused to sanction the purchase of a big-name playmaker in the summer and fears Inter will struggle to break teams down this season.
2. Get her a beer
U.S. national team star Heather O'Reilly was the driving force behind Sky Blue FC's dramatic victory in the inaugural WPS championship game. O'Reilly struck the only goal in Sky Blue's 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Sol, completing a remarkable run of three road wins in eight days to clinch the championship.
3. Get him some earplugs
Richie Williams will lead the New York Red Bulls until the end of the season after Juan Carlos Osorio stepped down. However, the Big Apple locals are disgusted with the team's dismal performance this season, and Williams and his players can expect to find themselves in the firing line if matters do not improve.
4. Keep an eye on …
Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward scored twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic last Saturday and seems to be coming into peak form at the start of World Cup season.
5. Catch a flight to …
Manchester. Arsenal travels to Old Trafford on Saturday to take on United in a contest that could give an early indicator of both sides' Premiership title credentials.
6. Useless and completely made up statistic of the week
8 – The number of goals Barcelona should have beaten Athletic Bilbao by in winning Sunday's Spanish Super Cup second leg. Lionel Messi was outstanding once again but Barca squandered several chances as it romped to a 3-0 win to prevail 5-1 on aggregate.
7. Fond farewell
Mexico was dealt a significant blow this week when it was announced that emerging star Carlos Vela will miss El Tri's next two World Cup qualifiers due to injury. However, Mexico's CONCACAF rivals will not be sorry to see the back of Vela for a while, as the Arsenal youngster has huge potential.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Heath Pearce. The USA national team defender is being linked with a switch to MLS with FC Dallas, after his contract with German club Hansa Rostock ended this summer.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
Landon Donovan. Once again, the Los Angeles Galaxy forward is being linked with a move to Europe, this time with French side Paris St. Germain. Time is running out for Donovan to make his mark in a leading league and a switch to Paris could be just what he needs. Several English and Spanish teams are still sniffing around, though.
10. Get excited about …
AC Milan. With Kaka moving to Real Madrid, Milan suffered some poor defeats in preseason. But reports from Italy (after a season-opening 2-1 at Siena) suggest new head coach Leonardo has instilled a sense of spirit and togetherness into the camp and the Rossoneri have a great chance of wresting away the Serie A title.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Elena Santarelli, partner of Barnardo Corradi, who is currently on loan at Parma from Manchester City.
- Jozy Altidore
- English Premier League