But the US men’s national team forward has found it difficult to balance soccer with broader societal issues, as he explained before the Reds host the Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening in East Hartford (7:30 pm ET | TSN 1/4; MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US).
“It’s definitely been a difficult and very challenging year, and then you add in the pandemic and leaving our families,” Altidore said. “It kind of puts soccer second or third in the rearview mirror when normally, obviously, for us it’s the first, so it’s been definitely a difficult year. It’s a huge testament to the guys that we’re still able to get results and still show on the field that we’re focused and united.”
Travel issues around the COVID-19 pandemic have Toronto playing their remaining regular-season home games at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, where the University of Connecticut’s football team plays. That means lengthy spells away from family, coupled on top of the month-long MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando earlier this summer.
WATCH: Altidore's full interview
Toronto stayed in Canada during the six-game Phase 1 restart, with three of those matches played at BMO Field. They earned the MLS berth in this year’s Canadian Championship final from that period, edging past the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but Altidore feels that the broader picture can take a toll.
“I’m going through long stretches and [my son’s] not seeing me around, and I think that’s really difficult for him and difficult for me,” Altidore said. “I don’t really know how to deal with those situations, having not dealt with them like this before. We all have kids, we all have families and it’s difficult to try to explain these things where they don’t really get the concept of time. That part makes it all the more difficult because they’re innocent. The kids don’t really know what’s going on, so you of course wish you could be with them during these tough times and monitor them and make sure everything’s OK.”
There’s also the political fabric, with the United States one month away from a hotly-contested presidential election. Much of this past spring and summer was shaped by issues around racial inequality, too, which led to the Black Players for Change forming in MLS.
But Altidore hopes there’s more progress made and it’s not just a “fad.”
“I think we’re in the day and age where a lot of people talk about change, a lot of people talk about wanting change and trying to help, but it lasts for a week or two and then it goes away,” Altidore said. “When I say that, I mean more so white people. I think a lot of white people will say, yeah, they want to help, but it lasts for a week or two, it’s a couple social media posts and then it’s gone. I think the important thing when it comes to something like this is to keep on engaging one another, keep on having these tough conversations and try and to move forward in a better way, but actively trying to move forward in a better way, not just on social media and what is convenient.”
There’s clearly a lot on Altidore’s mind beyond soccer, though the 30-year-old Designated Player hopes things change soon. He called this period draining, both mentally and emotionally, which compounds the physical demands of a compressed schedule.
“To be honest, I’m just navigating it just like everybody else,” Altidore said. “I’m just trying to find the best way forward and, to be honest, I just can’t wait until it’s all over. To be with the family and regroup and hopefully things can move forward in a positive way for the league and just in general."