During a press conference late Friday morning, Jozy Altidore was officially unveiled as a Toronto FC player. The US international completed his move back to MLS from Sunderland, with Jermain Defoe heading the opposite direction. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, it is believed that the 25-year-old striker was signed as a Designated Player and will earn roughly $6 million a year.
How did TFC get Altidore?
The moves of Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones to MLS may have been convoluted, but this one was more or less straightforward. As an American International, Altidore’s return to the league was subject to the MLS Allocation Ranking. TFC was sixth in that order, but none of the five teams ahead of the club used their allocation spots to sign the forward. So, Toronto was eventually able to get its man after a brief period of uncertainty.
Who are those clubs and why weren’t those club interested?
The five clubs ahead of TFC in the allocation order were Montreal Impact, San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo. Other teams, notably the Portland Timbers and the New York Red Bulls, were interested but were unable to move up in the queue. It is believed that two factors contributed to this overall lack of interest. Firstly, Altidore’s salary demands were such that only a few teams would have been interested in meeting them. Secondly, since Altidore was acquired by the league as a result of the departure of Jermain Defoe, Toronto would have been due some sort of (likely extravagant) compensation.
Speaking of Defoe, what happened to The Bloody Big Deal?
Based on multiple stories doing the rounds today, he was some combination of injured, homesick, disinterested and frustrated. It is believed that Defoe began to sour on TFC after he was omitted from the England World Cup squad, and this dissatisfaction reached a boiling point following the dismissal of head coach Ryan Nelsen in late August. Nelsen, who was briefly Defoe’s teammate at Tottenham, had been instrumental in bringing the England international to Canada. According to The Daily Mail, “[Defoe] eventually returned to the UK in November and has spent time training at St George’s Park and in France, as well as with Spurs’ development squad. The 32-year-old never had any intention of returning to the MLS…” So, the swap deal for Altidore represented a happy solution for all parties involved.
Why would Toronto be so intent on signing a player who only managed three Premier League goals in the last 18 months?
The litany of things that went wrong for Altidore at Sunderland has been widely reported, most recently (and succinctly) here at Paste. However, it’s worth remembering two other periods in Altidore’s playing career. First, there was his time in the Netherlands, when Jozy managed 38 goals in 67 appearances for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, and was the league’s top scorer in the 2012-2013 season. Altidore has always been something of a streaky player, and that can be both positive (AZ) and negative (Sunderland).
More to the point, Jozy has already shown he can score goals in MLS, and that was when he was still an unproven teenager. In 37 appearances for New York from 2006-2008, he found the back of the net 15 times. As pointed out by Mitchell Tierney at SB Nation, “For those counting, that would tie Dwayne De Rosario’s single season club record set in 2009. For those still sceptical [sic], he did that between the age of 16 and 18.”
How does Jurgen Klinsmann feel about Altidore’s return to the domestic league?
During his inaugural TFC press conference, Altidore indicated that he had the full backing of the US men’s national team coach, a statement that seems supported by the fact that, upon the signing being made official, Klinsmann immediately called Altidore into the January USMNT camp. In addition, in a Wednesday interview with ESPN, the US coach stated, “The biggest advice is ‘You gotta play.’ You can’t sit on the bench there and not be in match fitness, so find a team that gives you a chance to play.” That’s exactly what Altidore has now done. Of course, this is the same Klinsmann who earlier in the week admitted that, “With Jozy, I just say it would be nice if I would see him one day in the European Champions League. Because I think he’s a Champions League player. He has that potential, the talent to do so.”
I heard that there was interest in Altidore from clubs in Germany, Holland and Italy. So, was this move to Toronto a smart move for a player who should be entering the prime years of his career?
The short answer is yes. Lots of stories have referenced interest from clubs in those countries, but no specific names have been reported. In addition, given Altidore’s situation with Sunderland, it’s unlikely that any of those clubs would have built their attack around a struggling forward. In Toronto, he will unquestionably be the main man in attack, will be playing in a familiar league, and will be starting in the same lineup as Michael Bradley (a man who, by Altidore’s own admission, he has played with at every stage of his career).
So, when do I get to see Altidore in action again?
In the near future, he will likely get some minutes when the USA plays Chile and Panama later this month. Then comes the start of the 2015 MLS campaign, with Toronto traveling to Vancouver on March 7 to kick off the season. Unfortunately for Toronto fans, the team won’t play its home opener until May 10th, eight matches into the season.