MLS in Focus: Jozy Altidore’s struggles

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

In January, Jozy Altidore returned to Major League Soccer and signed with Toronto FC. Reactions to the move were mixed in the American soccer community. The signing was seen as something of a coup for the league, while some people felt Altidore would have been better served staying in Europe.

There was a unified sense, however, that Altidore, who scored 15 goals while still a teenager in MLS, would do well in his return to the league. The hope, if not the expectation, was that it would help him re-spark his career.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.


 

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In his first game back in MLS, Altidore scored two goals on the road in Vancouver. One of those was a penalty kick, but credit to Altidore for earning that penalty. Very early signs pointed to Altidore having success in MLS similar to his success in the Netherlands. After winning on opening day, Toronto lost their next four matches. Altidore played in three, but didn’t score until another brace in Orlando. Four goals in five games is a heck of a start.

Since then, things have all seemed to go wrong for him. First, there was a hamstring injury suffered in New England. He was still working his way back to full strength when playing for the USMNT at the Gold Cup. He left the team after a disappointing performance in the group stage. JozyR

Earlier this month, Altidore let his frustrations get the best of him, and was sent off for kicking out at Jose Goncalves in a game against the Revs.

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What has been missing throughout this poor stretch is the goals. Including his brief stint at the Gold Cup, Altidore has just two goals in his last 13 matches. He has just three shots on goal for TFC during 10 games in that span. That is not good enough, particularly when Altidore isn’t creating any goals via assists.


So far, Altidore has not lived up to his Toronto salary of $4.75 million. His production is below that of the man he replaced, Jermain Defoe. And while Altidore brings certain off-the-field benefits, I’m unsure how big a draw he really is north of the border.

While his recent play hasn’t reflected this, Altidore’s seven goals in 17 games is not a bad record. There is still plenty of time for him to regain his early-season form and help Toronto reach the playoffs for the first time.

Teams have begun to focus on shutting down Sebastian Giovinco because he poses a much greater threat at this point. Altidore must make them pay for that.