TORONTO – Jozy Altidore is on fire.
The striker has six goals and two assists in his last eight appearances for Toronto FC since returning from his latest hamstring setback.
Add in his performances with the US national team, where he scored three more while captaining the side in recent CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, and it may be the best stretch of his career.
Just don't tell that to him.
“I scored almost 40 goals one year... I think that was pretty good,” quipped Altidore from training on Tuesday.
A lightning rod for both praise and criticism, Altidore waved away such external concerns: “I don't pay attention to any of it; as quickly as it's positive, it can turn negative. The most important people are your teammates and coaching staff. Those are the people you have to prove it to, show that you're up for it every day.”
For Altidore there's no secret to this run of form. “I feel good,” he said. “The team is playing well.”
“You've got to enjoy what you're doing,” said Altidore of such moments. “Sometimes it's not fun – injuries or whatever, but right now the team is having fun, I'm having fun. We're in a good spot; we're flowing. We've just got to keep that going, peak at the right time.”
Or perhaps Altidore has finally fully settled after his European wanderings. “It's like home for me,” said the 26-year old of Toronto.
Regardless of why, it has been fun to watch, even if Altidore has not yet reached the high standards he holds for himself.
“I felt like I was playing better when I wasn't scoring,” said Altidore of his early season form. “I go into games trying to be effective, be an outlet for the team, make sure I'm sharp. When you get the goals, it's a bonus. I don't go in obsessed with scoring goals.”
“I like to think I'm a good overall soccer player; playing, passing, moving,” added Altidore. “I'm not going to say I'm [Andres] Iniesta or Neymar, but my overall game has improved a lot and I'm proud of that.”
Asked how sustainable this run is, TFC coach Greg Vanney pointed to a newfound diligence from Altidore in preempting the hamstring issues.
“He's been amazing in his preparation,” said Vanney. “He's got a routine that [has] been great in getting him back to health; staying with it is going to keep him healthy.”
“It involves stretching, warming-up, and preparation,” explained Vanney. “We call it 'activation.' Get the body loosened up, all the muscles firing and ready to go; making sure flexibility [is] there. It's a significant amount of time, a real commitment from Jozy every day, before games and before training. He's been incredibly diligent about it and it's paying off. He's reaping the rewards through scoring goals and helping our team get results.”
With a crucial top of the Eastern Conference clash against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (5 pm ET; FOX, FOX Sports GO | TSN2 in Canada) and Sebastian Giovinco's inclusion uncertain due to injury, Altidore's form could not have come at a better time, though he prefers to concentrate on the team, rather than himself.
“One thing [Toronto FC] does very well: we play some good football,” beamed Altidore. “It's easy when you play with good players to play a brand of soccer you enjoy.”
“We've come a long way,” continued Altidore. “I don't think we've played our best. We've played well, but I still think our best soccer has not been there for long enough to say this is Toronto FC. We're on the right track.”