Cyle Larin - Didier Drogba - Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore is ready for his close up.


As detailed on Tuesday by our own Matt Doyle, Altidore is really, really good right now. The Toronto FC striker has scored or assisted in each of his last five games, and is putting in solid hold-up play and defensive work to boot.


This week, he’ll have a chance to go head to head with two of the other top hold-up strikers in MLS: Didier Drogba and Cyle Larin.


TFC will take on Larin and Orlando on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET; TSN4 in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US) before returning home to host Drogba and the Montreal Impact in a Heineken Rivalry Week match on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; TSN 1/4/5, RDS in Canada; MLS LIVE in the US).


Both matches hold major implications in the Eastern Conference, as Toronto FC continue their push for the Supporters’ Shield and seventh-place Orlando and fifth-place Montreal try to shore up their playoff position.


They could also provide a solid look at the differences between Altidore, Larin and Drogba


Their goal and assist totals vary, but, when they’re measured on a per 90 minute basis, their top-line production numbers look relatively similar. Larin and Drogba are tied atop, while Altidore is slightly behind, and Drogba also leads in the assist category as well. They’re all relatively close on the combined goal and assist numbers when penalties are excluded, with Drogba, Altidore second and Larin third.

Player
Goals per 90
Assists per 90
Non-penalty goals plus assists per 90
Altidore
.47
.35
.82
Drogba
.61
.38
.91
Larin
.61
.15
.76

Those numbers are nice, but they don’t tell us that much about how they actually play. Where we start to see a real difference is in the numbers that measure how involved a striker is in build-up play. That’s where Altidore stands out.


The numbers say that the US international is more involved in building the TFC attack than either Larin or Drogba are in Orlando and Montreal. Altidore places first among the trio in passes per 90, usage rate, passes in the final third per 90 and aerials won per 90.

Player
Passes per 90
Usage Rate
Passes, Final Third per 90
Aerials Won per 90
Altidore
33.04
7.66%
15.76
2.92
Drogba
26.10
6.66%
14.57
2.43
Larin
16.04
3.78%
7.64
1.47

Those stats don’t always lead to goals or assists, but they do allow Sebastian Giovinco the freedom to get loose in the attack. We saw that to great effect on Giovinco’s strike in TFC’s 3-1 win against Philadelphia on Saturday, a play that started with Altidore laying off a long ball with his chest to midfielder Marky Delgado, who hit a gorgeous long ball to a streaking Giovinco for a goal in the first half.


That trend has borne itself out over the course of the season, too. In the 14 games Altidore has played this year, Giovinco has 14 goals and seven assists. He has just two strikes and four helpers in the 10 games Altidore has missed. That’s a pretty remarkable split.


Of course, Drogba and – to a slightly lesser extent – Larin are capable of that sort of hold-up play, too. Toronto just ask Altidore to employ it more often than Montreal or Orlando do with their star strikers. It’s worked well in recent weeks, as TFC are unbeaten in their last six, five of which have been wins. If Altidore can keep it up, Toronto might just add a couple more victories to that streak this week.