The score is 3-1 with just over 30 minutes left, and 30 yards from goal a hulk of a man stands over a dead ball, primed to pull his team back into the game. He takes three small steps and strikes the ball, not entirely with power, but with a finesse that puts the ball on a flight into the top left corner.
A single pump of the fist will do and he is on his way back to continue the comeback, which he will complete just 18 minutes later. He is used to it. The player is on fire – it is his seventh goal in nine games for his club – and making game-changing plays is what he does. How does the song go again?
It’s Jozy Altidore / you know he’s gonna score / we’ll go wild wild wild / we’ll go wild wild wild.
That’s right. Jozy Altidore has just scored a 30 yard free kick with the finesse of a player who would probably never play for Sunderland again. It is the kind of goal that makes you feel like your club is missing out, and they are.
In February 2015, Jozy told the Toronto Sun that he turned down nine potential European options in Italy, France and Germany, as well as a loan to another Premier League club. Instead, he went to Toronto FC in an effort to revitalise his career, and has he ever?
Altidore is an entirely different beast. Though he has always worn the physique of a player designed to bully backlines, it has never really matched his playing style. However, this offseason he dropped 10 pounds in an effort to improve his fitness and was the definition of a bully thereon. It was evident that this was a new and improved player, even if he was not scoring.
Pressing defences high up the pitch, making recoveries and tackles, dropping deep to support the midfield: does that sound like Altidore? Because that is the kind of player he is now.
In May, he went down with his second hamstring injury of the year, a result of the issues he has had for years prior. When he returned, he had an added edge, having finally sorted out the problem. Since coming back he is scoring or assisting a goal every 77 minutes (Jermain Defoe did the same only every 118).
Altidore has become a big game player for the Reds, having put up three goals and two assists in three MLS Playoff games this year, including two goals and one assist in a 7-0 aggregate rout of Patrick Vieira’s NYCFC.
More than that, Altidore has heart. When a dispute arose between the club and Inebriatti, a Toronto supporters’ group, he connected with the group. The game after the dispute had been resolved, he slalomed by USA teammates, Birnbaum and Hamid, before scoring and then jumped into the stands to celebrate.
Prior to this monumental shift, Altidore probably could have put in a solid contribution at a top tier club, as the European interest proves, but at 27-years-old and in the best fitness and form of his life I would argue that he would be more than an apt contributor at most clubs.
He is the very image of a striker you would love to see play for your team. He shows hustle, a nose for goal and heart, and thus your club is more than likely missing out.
Image courtesy of IIJ Events