Jozy Altidore saw the best chance of his Sunderland career to date splashed away by Arter Boruc in the 58th minute. It came back to bite Sunderland as José Fonte gave Southampton a deserved equalizer in the 88th minute, erasing Emanuele Giaccherini's 3rd-minute opener.
The Black Cats were dominated on the road and Altidore was starved of service as his team ended with about 30 percent of possession and several hundred less passes completed than the hosts.
Boruc's save was a fine one as Altidore looked to slide the ball between the Polish goalkeeper's legs with his left foot from outside the six-yard box. He might have been able to go around Boruc, but it was a split-second decision after a well-timed run that left him with about five yards to play with.
Altidore's most wasted opportunity came in the 65th minute when he hesitated, then went down, one-on-one with José Fonte with 50 yards of open field between Fonte and the Southampton goal. No call was given, and Altidore spent the rest of his 90 minutes tracking back or trying to win the odd loose ball or throw-in that found its way into the Sunderland attacking half.
Playing largely alone up top, Altidore often pulled to the left, seemingly to allow Adam Johnson to pinch in and surge forward.
But with Sunderland having so little of the ball, the move displaced Sunderland's best outlet more than opening up the attack. Altidore won headers. Too often, though, they were for no one.
Best look: The aforementioned one-on-one with Boruc. It was a solid save from a good shot after a good run. No hesitation from Altidore, just didn't win this duel.
Most impressive: In the 26th minute Altidore settled a skipping ball and flicked it out of the air to Stephane Sessgnon across the box. Sessegnon scampered around his obstructing man to keep the ball in play, but Underland''s final ball was long.
-Dong-Won Ji and Connor Wickham are still struggling to form an understanding with each other and Altidore -- and vice versa.
Wickham was one-on-one in the right corner in the 91st minute, but waited too long to hit a cross to Altidore. By the time he did, Altidore had nearly run out of field. Regardless the cross didn't clear the first defender.
-Ji should've slipped Wickham in down the right channel in the 82nd minute. Instead he took his man on 30 yards out before laying off for a midfielder to blast over the goal. Altidore wasn't involved in the play, but it illustrated Sunderland's lack of quick passing play.
-Sessgnon's style of play can help Altidore -- taking men on, stretching the defense wide and vertically. His execution just isn't there.
-Sunderland is a much less ambitious team attacking-wise than the U.S. national team. Maybe that goes without saying, but it's so painfully obvious that it has to be said.
Final stats (team total)
Shots: 1 (8); Shots on goal: 1 (3); Fouls drawn 3 (11);
Fletcher coming back, sooner or later, makes a difference for Altidore.
He's in a swarm of two or three defenders every time he touches the
ball. As is, he'll get a half chance per game, tops, and if it goes begging, that's it. Doing all the other little things well though.
Player rating: 6.5
- Jacob Klinger