TORONTO – Toronto FC’s offense has been on fire. Now, with the ahead-of-schedule return of Jozy Altidore, it’s set to get even stronger.
The US international went down with a hamstring injury in Toronto FC’s visit to the New England Revolution on May 16. Initially expected to be out for 4-5 weeks, Altidore has returned to health ahead of schedule, making a short cameo off the bench - and selling a dummy on the game-winning goal - in last weekend’s win at D.C. United.
“I did a lot of work, a lot of extra sessions with the medical staff, doing my best to get back,” Altidore told reporters at training Tuesday. “I wanted to cut it down as much as I could because I knew, if I’m called for the Gold Cup, I’d miss games. It wouldn’t have been fair to come back for Toronto, play a game, and then leave. I didn’t want to do that.”
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney says that Altidore’s appearance against D.C. – he played the final eight minutes – was calculated, especially with TFC on a bye this week.
“We wouldn’t have put him out there if there were any sort of risk,” Vanney said. “We knew it was going to be about a management of time and the number of minutes he actually played. He’s right there. I wouldn’t go out there and say he’s ‘90 minutes, ready to go’ and put that kind of stress on the endurance side of the muscle injury, but at the same time, he’s progressed into the training sessions accordingly.”
This is hardly the first hamstring injury that Altidore has had to deal with in the last year; he notably went down in the first half of the US’s 2014 World Cup opener with a similar issue. Altidore said that his recovery this time around was made quicker because of those past experiences.
“I wouldn’t say it was easier, but I just knew what to do, if that makes any sense,” Altidore said. “Rest is key with these things, when you have these little tears, and sleep and hydration are so important. I got a lot of sleep, a lot of hydration, did the extra sessions, really pushed through them and got my leg stronger. You have to rest with these things.”
While he’ll need some time to reach full match fitness, Altidore is eager to get back to TFC’s roaring attack. He’s learned plenty about the team’s new attacking shape while on the sidelines, watching Sebastian Giovinco lead the forward line and Michael Bradley orchestrate from the tip of a four-man midfield diamond.
Giovinco has been particularly lethal in the new setup, scoring three goals and adding two assists to key Toronto’s three-game winning streak. The Italian now has seven goals, two more than Altidore, who is looking to quickly catch his fellow Designated Player.
“It’s going to be hard for me, because he’s going to be a game up or two,” Altidore said. “I’m coming back from this injury, and then there’s the Gold Cup, so it’ll be tough, but we’re definitely pushing each other. It’s why we both came here at the times we did: to push each other and to play with each other.”