TORONTO – Jozy Altidore is going all in with Toronto FC, and Toronto FC is going all in with Jozy Altidore.
TFC announced Thursday that it has inked the American forward to a new deal through the end of the 2022 MLS season. In coming to terms with Altidore, Toronto has re-signed a Designated Player for the first time in franchise history.
Altidore was in the final year of his old contract, and Toronto ran the risk of losing him as an unrestricted free agent without any compensation at the end of the upcoming MLS campaign.
That sobering reality, coupled with the recent departure of Sebastian Giovinco, don’t make for the greatest optics, as it makes it look as though TFC rushed into re-signing Altidore. Club president Bill Manning admitted locking up Altidore became a priority after Giovinco forced a transfer move to Saudi club Al-Hilal last month.
“When we weren’t able to come to terms with Sebastian, I made it a point that we were going to be able to come to terms with Jozy. I think it was extremely important for the club that one of those DPs that signed a few years ago, continued his career [here],” Manning admitted.
On the surface, this move reeks of desperation, with TFC appearing to do it out of necessity for the short-term at the expense of long-term planning.
But forget about the optics. Making sure Altidore remains in Toronto was a smart piece of business, as the Reds will be able to continue to call upon one of the best forwards in MLS.
Altidore is a proven goal-scorer of the highest quality, and those aren’t easy to come by in MLS. Since coming to Toronto, the American has scored 60 goals and tallied 20 assists in all competitions. He also played a starring role in TFC’s historic 2017 campaign when it won a treble of trophies – the MLS Cup, Canadian Championship and the Supporters’ Shield – and set the record for most points in a single MLS regular season.
Even after four years in Toronto, Altidore still fits the player profile of the type of DP that TFC wants: an attacking player on the right side of 30 who they feel has his best years ahead of him.
“We feel confident that at 29-years-old he has still a lot of mileage in him. That was, for me, the most important thing,” Manning said.
Of course, the criticism of Altidore has been about his durability and, to be sure, injuries have dogged him during his tenure with TFC. The American has been sidelined by a series of ailments to his body during his time in Toronto. On more than one occasion he returned to action too soon and at times the club mismanaged his recovery and rushed him back before he was fully fit.
Currently, he’s dealing with a minor knee issue unrelated to his off-season angle surgery, and he won’t travel to Philadelphia this weekend for the Reds’ MLS season opener. He likely won’t make his return until TFC’s home opener on March 17.
But the popular narrative going around that Altidore “is always injured” is grossly unfair. He’s played 88 regular season games over four MLS campaign, for a respectable average of 22 appearances per season. Eighty-eight games are far less than the 114 that Sebastian Giovinco played for TFC during the same time frame. But, considering the physical style Altidore plays, and the constant abuse he receives from opposing defenders – and the abuse he dishes out to those charged with marking him — it’s a wonder he’s played as many games as he has for TFC.
Even last year, when injuries meant Altidore played in just 13 regular season games, he still managed to score seven goals and added an assist, an impressive tally for such a limited time on the pitch.
Manning believes the worst of Altidore’s injuries are behind him, to the point that the expectation is that he will be the focal point of the attack in 2019. That might worry some supporters, but the pending addition of 27-year-old Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo from Belgian club Genk, and other high-profile players the team has targeted, must have Altidore salivating at the prospect of leading the line for TFC.
More than anything else, Altidore’s commitment to Toronto FC has been exemplary. The best example of how fierce a competitor he is came in the decisive second leg of the 2017 Eastern Conference final when he fought through the pain and discomfort of an injured ankle to score the winning goal to send TFC through to the MLS Cup final.
ALtidore has shown up when it has mattered the most. He leads the club in all-time scoring in the playoffs with seven goals, including the game-winner that sealed the Reds’ MLS Cup victory in 2017. His three goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League also helped TFC come within an eyelash of becoming the first MLS side to win the continental championship.
Captain Michael Bradley sees the re-signing of Altidore as vital for TFC, especially as it tries to rebound and set things right following a disastrous 2018 MLS season.
“To get Jozy locked in, to make sure that everybody knows he’s going to be a guy who is here and a huge part of things, today and going forward, that part is so important,” Bradley offered.
“He has been a guy who, since he walked through the door, he’s been there on all the biggest days. When we’ve needed goals, when we’ve needed big moments, he has been there and he has come through over and over and over again.”
As for Altidore, he’s hungry to get back onto the field, especially after missing most of last season. A hungry Jozy Altidore is a dangerous Jozy Altidore, something that the league’s defenders can attest to from personal experience.
“This is my home, this is where I want to be, and this is where I want to keep building. I’m very happy about this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started again,” Altidore said.