Altidore’s physical dominance paying dividends for Toronto FC


Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) celebrates a goal with teammate Sebastian Giovinco (10) as fans cheer on. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – Jozy Altidore emerged from the showers with a towel wrapped around his waist before casually strolling to his locker room stall, seemingly without a care in the world, where the press horde was gathered and waiting on him.

Toronto FC’s star forward was the very picture of serenity and quiet, not at all looking like a man who took an absolute battering and beating from the New England Revolution in the Reds’ 2-0 home win on Friday night.

It was another man-of-the-match performance from Altidore — he’s had several this season. The American didn’t score, but what he did do was effectively lead the line up front, using his considerable size (he stands six-feet, and weighs 175 pounds), power and strength to boss the Revolution’s defenders, thus creating space and opportunities for his teammates to exploit.

Of course, Altidore got as good as he gave, with New England’s defenders routinely mugging him on and off the ball. The official stats sheet showed that he suffered five fouls on the night, but that’s a conservative estimate. In the first half, Altidore was clearly hacked down from behind in the 18-yard area, but didn’t get the penalty decision. In the second half, he picked up a questionable yellow card (his league-leading seventh of the season) after trying to break in on goal while having his jersey tugged on from behind by a Revolution defender.

Altidore had been through a war for 90 minutes, and this after playing a full game in Montreal against the Impact on Wednesday night. Still, there were no complaints from Altidore, no impassioned cries of "Woe is me" after the physical pounding he took. He understands that’s all part of the game.

"I’m used to it now. There are so many little fouls that happen in a game that because of my size, I don’t get the calls. It is what it is. I can’t do anything about it," Altidore said.

He later added: "There’s a lot of plays, a lot of things off the ball that the refs aren’t seeing. For whatever reason, if I just try to play tough a little bit, I always seem to be the one getting in trouble. Like I said, it what it is. It’s not going to change. It’s on us to adapt. Nobody is going to do us any favours."

Altidore has been one of TFC’s best players through the first half of the season, and has played a major role in helping the Reds to an MLS-best 10-2-5 record. He’s tied with Sebastian Giovinco as the club’s top scorer (seven goals apiece), and ranks third in assists with four. He’s also been a tireless and durable workhorse, accumulating 1,204 minutes of playing time in MLS — only Michael Bradley, Justin Morrow and Eriq Zavaleta have featured more for TFC this season.

Coach Greg Vanney has routinely lauded Altidore for his physical game, but he also conceded that sometimes the American international doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt from referees because of it. It’s a small price to pay, and it’s one that Vanney is perfectly fine in paying.

"When Jozy plays like that, he’s very difficult to stop. … If Jozy will play strong, big and physical that way all the time, I’ll take it. I don’t care how many fouls he takes over the course of the game," Vanney stated.

"That’s an absolute nightmare for a centre back, to have to deal with a big forward who wants to play physical with you. At some point over the course of the 90 minutes, you’re going to lose that battle and he’s going to end up with a chance or give somebody else a chance."

The abuse that Altidore receives from defenders is just one of the things he deals with on a regular basis. Because he and Giovinco form one of the top forward partnerships in MLS, and because of TFC’s reputation as one of the best sides in the league, Altidore feels that opponents gear up more to try to stop them compared to when they play other teams — that, in effect, he and his teammates are playing with massive targets in their back.

That comes with the territory, though.

"It’s what we signed up for," Altidore said.

"At the end of the day, teams look forward to coming here to play against us and trying to have good games against us. Everybody’s always talking about Seba and I, but we get everybody’s best game all the time. It’s hard to compare numbers, and this and that. No disrespect to other teams, but it’s difficult when every night you’re getting people’s best game.

"To have to play at that level and raise the bar sometimes to try and get a result, it’s not easy. But nobody’s complaining."

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

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