It would be wrong to call Jozy Altidore unassuming. The Toronto FC striker can post up defenders like DeMarcus Cousins and despite his smiling and friendly persona off the pitch, he isn’t afraid to let his opponent, or the referee, know he’s around.
However, when your strike partner is former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco, arguably the best player to ever grace the league, you learn to live in a shadow. Eighth-highest paid player in MLS yes. Star of the show, no.
Altidore has suffered a lot from injury during his time in Toronto and so the team has learned to live without him at times, but now healthy, the 27-year-old is banging in the goals this season and, perhaps more importantly, spending more time on the pitch than ever.
Substituted to gracious applause in the second half of TFC’s comfortable 2-0 win over Houston Dynamo at BMO Field on Friday night, Altidore had racked up his 647th minute of the still fresh 2017 campaign. Of his teammates, only defenders Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta and the ever-present Michael Bradley have played more.
Altidore, who joined the 100-cap club with the U.S. national team earlier this year, has started seven of eight games and leads TFC in scoring with five goals. His latest is a strong contender for MLS Goal of the Week.
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) April 29, 2017
Only Orlando City’s Canadian sensation Cyle Larin (six) and Houston’s Erick Torres (seven) have more goals. Torres was kept markedly quiet in Toronto by a backline still missing its defender-in-chief Drew Moor, who thankfully looks set to return from the heart problem that has kept him on the sidelines.
Altidore also has two assists to his name and a higher pass success rate than Giovinco. The American is at his best when he keeps it simple. For him, often less is more. But if the player who only started 50 percent of TFC’s games last season and scored a respectable but low tally of 10 goals can stay fit and healthy, the ceiling on the losing MLS Cup finalists may be even higher than we thought.
Toronto sits comfortably in the playoff spots with 13 points through eight games (3-1-4) in what is shaping up to be an extremely competitive Eastern Conference.
Following Friday night’s game, Major League Soccer were so enamored by the interplay of the Altidore-Giovinco axis, they put together a highlight reel with a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in Toronto’s nightclub district.
Jozy. Giovinco. Together? Unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/MfdEr0bbgl
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 29, 2017
The key to Toronto’s fortunes was always destined to be the productivity of its little and large attack, but with Giovinco coming to life after a muted start to 2017 – and Altidore looking like a man who could stay on the field for most of the 34 regular-season games – there’s reason to believe TFC can go one step further.