Clint Dempsey scored a dramatic late equalizer that felt, to paraphrase his words, more like a winner. Not to be outdone, Jozy Altidore bagged a hat-trick in just over 20 minutes.
It was a big weekend for American attackers in European leagues, but now a couple of questions remain.
Firstly, what does it all mean?
Secondly, who had the better weekend?
Before we answer, let's get to the goals.
On Saturday, Altidore scored three times in the second half as AZ Alkmaar whipped Vitesse Arnhem 4-1 in the Dutch Eredivisie. Altidore opened the scoring in the 55th minute, and after a Roy Beerens goal made it 3-0 in the 64th, he completed his hat-trick with a close-range shot 13 minutes from time.
All three goals can be seen here.
Upon watching, it becomes immediately obvious that Altidore benefited from some poor defending on the part of Vitesse. That was especially true with the final goal, when Altidore had plenty of time and space to trap, control and shoot—unpressured by the central defenders.
Dempsey, meanwhile, scored in the 93rd minute as Tottenham Hotspur grabbed a dramatic draw at home to English Premier League leaders Manchester United at White Hart Lane. Spurs had pressured United throughout the second half, coming close to equalizing on numerous occasions.
However, before Dempsey's vital strike (which can be seen here), United looked destined for an improbable win. With the draw, Tottenham remained in fourth place in the Premier League and added to their lead over rivals Arsenal.
"I was just thinking maybe it wasn’t going to be our day but we kept plugging away, kept getting shots on goal and in the end, we finally got what we deserved," Dempsey said after the match (per TottenhamHotspur.com).
He added: "It was relief. Anytime you can get a point when you are looking at defeat, it almost feels like a win. It was great."
So, again: What does it all mean? Who had the better weekend?
To answer the first, keep in mind both history and perspective.
It's a long season, and one weekend does not make a successful campaign. That said, Altidore has now scored 14 goals in the Eredivisie this season. Coupled with AZ Alkmaar's last game before the winter break, Altidore has scored five goals in his last two outings.
Saturday's was his second hat-trick of the season, following his three-goal performance against Roda JC on Sept. 16. However, even after brilliant spells at the club level, Altidore has often found it difficult to translate his form to the U.S. national team.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Altidore off his American roster for the final two semifinal matches in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. In doing so, Klinsmann cited Altidore's performances in training and matches.
“I communicated to Jozy (that) I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," Klinsmann said (via USSoccer.com). "I think Jozy can do much, much better."
Who had the better weekend?
Dempsey's goal was his fourth of the calendar year for Tottenham. That is a good record, but Dempsey has spent large portions of his first season at White Hart Lane trying to find a spot in manager Andre Villas-Boas' team.
If nothing else, Sunday's goal—his second in as many games against Manchester United this season—should give Dempsey confidence as Spurs continue their push for Champions League qualification. Similarly, Altidore's hat-trick could represent a prelude to better performances at the international level.
With such high stakes, Dempsey's goal was arguably more important than Altidore's hat-trick for 11th-placed AZ. However, it's hard to discount any hat-trick, no matter how poor the defending.
Regardless, it's clear that the U.S. national team has exciting attackers plying their trade in Europe. As the hexagonal beckons, that's good news for Klinsmann and his Yanks.