TFC president downplays rift with Altidore over Italian trainer

Jozy-Altidore

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) recovers on the ground after being tackled during second half MLS soccer action against the Minnesota United. (Christopher Katsarov/CP)

TORONTO – In the end, Toronto FC president Bill Manning said it was just a big misunderstanding, and that he and forward Jozy Altidore ended up hugging it out.

Altidore tallied an assist on the game-winning goal before being subbed out by coach Greg Vanney with hamstring tightness in the 82nd minute of TFC’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Minnesota United last Friday.

When speaking to reporters after the game, Altidore used the occasion to unequivocally blast Manning, explaining that the trainer associated with former teammate Sebastian Giovinco was let go by TFC when he was sold to a Saudi Arabian team in January. Altidore accused Manning of not allowing Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli in the team’s training facility to work with him or his teammates.

But Manning told reporters during a Monday afternoon conference call that he has since met with Altidore, and explained to his star forward that he was in the process of hiring Gueli on a part-time basis and making him available to the entire TFC team. Previously, Gueli only worked on a one-on-one basis with the club’s Designated Players.

Manning stated that Altidore didn’t have all the facts when he lashed out after Friday’s game. Manning said he spoke with Altidore on Monday morning, explained that Gueli will be with TFC again, and that he and Altidore shared a hug after their conversation.

“He didn’t have all the information. Now, I think he sees what I was working on, and we’re both in a good place. We’re moving forward in terms of Giuseppe’s role with the club,” Manning said.

Manning said Altidore was "happy and relieved" after their meeting. Altidore later posted this message on Twitter:

Manning also confirmed that Altidore’s MRI on his hamstring was “very good,” but that it looks like he’ll be sidelined for two to three weeks.

“Part of [Giuseppe’s] role is to make sure our guys return to play as soon as possible,” Manning said of Altidore’s injury layoff.

During his post-match rant, Altidore accused Manning of engaging in “games of egos” for cutting ties with Gueli when the club sold Giovinco because of his close affiliation with the former TFC goal-scorer.

“Hopefully, [Manning] can put his ego aside and I can get the guy that has kept me healthy, kept [captain] Michael [Bradley] healthy, kept a bunch of the guys healthy, and we can make things move forward. To run a club, you gotta be able to put your ego aside and put the players first. Hopefully, that will change,” Altidore fumed.

Manning took those comments in stride, saying Altidore spoke out of frustration and uncertainty over his injury.

“Any of you who are a dad out there, the example I give is your son throws a temper tantrum in the supermarket or a park or in a public place, you’re a little embarrassed, and you get him alone and scold him a little bit. But you still love him,” Manning said.

“We’re close, we’re family, and he’s so important to the club. His relationship and mine may actually become stronger through all of this.”

Manning explained he recently flew to Italy as part of a scouting trip, and met with Gueli to work out a new deal with him to expand his role with the team. But because those talks were kept private, Altidore spoke out of turn with regards to the Italian trainer’s status with TFC, according to Manning.

“Giuseppe had been working with the club where he specifically had worked with Designated Players, and that was a deal I wanted to terminate. [Captain Michael Bradley] and Jozy had spoken to me about his importance to them, and it was very important to me, as I related to them, that his services be available to the full team,” Manning explained.

“There was this timing where on April 11 [I] left for Italy and Jozy didn’t know that Giuseppe was going to be back. … I think the unknown for him, especially in a very emotional moment where he got injured, he kind of lashed out.”

Manning said he told Gueli in March that his relationship with TFC was being discontinued. But after speaking with Altidore and Bradley about the importance of having the Italian trainer on board, Manning reached out to Gueli to come to terms on a new arrangement where his services would be available the entire team, and not just the DPs.

"Giuseppe was kind of on his own island a little bit [during his previous tenure at TFC] and I said ‘If we’re going to doing this right going forward, I need you to be part of the staff, part of our team.’ … And he welcomed that," Manning said.

Manning declined to comment when asked if the club planned to discipline Altidore, whether via fine or suspension.

“We’re just keeping that in-house,” Manning answered.

TFC sports a 4-1-1 record and sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind D.C. United, but with two games in hand.

Toronto returns to action on Saturday when it hosts the Portland Timbers.

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