TORONTO—For a player in the midst of a slump, the barest of margins can make all the difference.
Jozy Altidore has been a force for Toronto FC since returning from a pre-season hamstring issue that cost him the first two matches of the season.
But criticism has focused on a lack of goals, his last having come back in October: a losing effort in Montreal on the final matchday of 2015.
That all looked set to be placed firmly behind him in the 34th minute of TFC's 4-3 loss to Vancouver on Saturday night when Altidore stood over the penalty spot facing down David Ousted in the Whitecaps' goal.
With his side already behind two goals, Altidore had won the penalty himself, much as he had in Montreal weeks ago, with some strong play in the area, drawing a pair of challenges that brought him down.
And he struck the kick well and confidently, if a little too close to the keeper and at the proverbial 'good height', allowing the save to be made.
As play carried on, Altidore dropped to the ground.
Two minutes later he was off the pitch, walking gingerly and headed straight down the tunnel to the dressing room with a look of displeasure furrowing his brow.
“I don't know specifically how [Jozy] is,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney, in his post-match press conference. “He said as he was approaching the penalty, on the take-off step, he felt it a little bit.
“[His hamstring] is the indication that I have. We'll see.”
It was an unfortunate turn of events.
Sebastian Giovinco, the club's usual taker, opted to let Altidore finish what he had begun.
“Seba is the guy who takes it, but if he wants Jozy to take it, to get him going – sometimes for a goalscorer to feel the back of the net, have that sensation, and get that monkey off your back … That's probably the reason [Jozy took it],” Vanney said. “Jozy is very capable, I haven't seen him miss one, so I didn't think anything of it.”
That a chance to quiet the discontented would turn into another hamstring concern, on the eve of the summer and another international commitment – the same injury that afflicted him last season as preparation began for the CONCACAF Gold Cup – is nearly Shakespearean.
With a TFC match on Wednesday and the start of the Copa America Centenario weeks away, midfielder Michael Bradley – Altidore's teammate, both of club and country – could only mutter, “You don't wish injuries on anyone, especially teammates. We wait to see what comes of this and go from there.”