TORONTO – Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore is confident MLS will rescind his red card and corresponding one-game suspension ahead of the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship series against Columbus Crew SC on Tues., Nov. 21 (8 pm ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes in US, TSN and TVAS in CAN).
TFC are set to begin the East championship at MAPFRE Stadium, but Altidore is currently suspended for the first leg after he was ejected following a halftime fracas in the tunnel of BMO Field during the second leg of Toronto’s Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Red Bulls. New York’s Sacha Kljestan was also ejected in the brouhaha, and both sides have filed appeals.
“I know what happened,” said Altidore on Thursday. “There is footage; you can't deny those things. The league is doing its due diligence.
"The video is clear, you can't argue with the facts. I'm not worried about it. You have to let the league do what it has to do with making that choice. I'm looking forward to being part of both legs against Columbus.”
TFC head coach Greg Vanney admitted that Altidore has been a tad “anxious” as he waits for a ruling in his appeal.
“His ability to play in the next game is in the balance,” said Vanney. “In training he's in a good spot, very intense, working hard, preparing himself for his next opportunity. That's what we ask of him.”
While Altidore’s first leg fate is up in the air, fellow star attacker Sebastian Giovinco will miss the series opener after being shown yellow cards in both legs against New York. His suspension adds some urgency to Altidore’s appeal, though Toronto believe that the US international should be allowed to play in Ohio.
Altidore's description of the tunnel fight lined up with what Vanney told media after the match, albeit with a few more details.
“[Kljestan] came up behind me, tried to grab, and I just pushed him off,” said Altidore. “That's it. He didn't fall into a wall, none of that happened. I don't know what he is talking about there.
“And then I walked into the locker room, so I didn't even see or know about the brawl until later. I was not involved [in that] in any way. The league is going to do the right thing.”
With the season on the line, Altidore expected a contentious match against New York, but didn’t expect things to spiral to that degree.
“You always get those scuffles, but nothing like that, where they came to our locker room,” Altidore said. “[New York] will be the first ones to tell you they lost their cool a bit. I've played for Jesse [Marsch] as a coach, I've played with Sacha. I know they aren't terrible guys.”
Having survived the Red Bull barrage, Altidore and TFC emerged with lessons in hand.
“We have to do the best we can to keep our cool and stay within the moment,” said Altidore, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday. “We let our emotions get the best of us, but it was blown up to more than it needed to be.”
“Every game now is a tough game,” he added later. “Whatever has happened in the past is thrown out the window. Two huge games for us; two we feel that we can win. [Life] has been good: celebrated my birthday. I'm happy, can't complain. We're in the next round and all is well.”