TORONTO – Something was not right.
In the 23rd minute of Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League first leg, Toronto FC had just clawed back level (through Jonathan Osorio) from Chivas Guadalajara’s shocking early away goal, only for Jozy Altidore to wander over the touchline for a sip of water and a quick chat with the bench.
It was odd.
Altidore had played a pivotal role in setting up the equalizer, collecting the ball from Sebastian Giovinco before slipping a pass down the right side of the area for Marky Delgado to swing to Osorio for a back-post finish.
He nearly did the same minutes later when Auro was played down that same side, but the fullback opted for the back post, rather than spot Giovinco steaming towards the near.
Once more Altidore sought refreshment, giving his head a rinse of cold water.
The striker got himself back into the action, only to vomit in the middle of the center circle. It was a case of deja vu, as similar scenes played out back in February in the second leg of the CCL Round of 16 against the Colorado Rapids.
Having lost Altidore just six minutes into the second leg against Club América in the last round with a foot issue, Toronto may have feared the worst. But Altidore persevered and had two golden chances to score in the first half before Alan Pulido netted the game-winner in the second.
“No [it wasn't his foot],” explained Greg Vanney post-match. “It was a stomach bug. We've got a few guys from our return trip from Mexico [in the semifinals] who have had stomach issues. That was a product of that.”
Tuesday night was Toronto's 11th match of the young season. Normally a side likes to ease into a rhythm. For TFC, 2018 has been anything but: never knowing from one week to the next where they will be, who they will be playing, what time zone or altitude they will be in. Occasionally even the days of the week seem irrelevant.
Altidore's illness is just one more thing to consider ahead of next week's second leg in Guadalajara. The wear and tear on the Reds has been evident.
Victor Vazquez was once more unable to be a part of the 18-player gameday roster. Justin Morrow was on the bench, coming on in the 67th minute for Ashtone Morgan for his first minutes since being injured in the second leg against Tigres UANL. Toronto would be forced to burn one substitute prematurely when Chris Mavinga, himself returning from injury, left at halftime, replaced by Eriq Zavaleta.
“The injury stuff is fine, he was cramping a little bit,” said Vanney of Mavinga afterwards. “He's fine.”
“It's a grind,” admitted Drew Moor, who made his 350th MLS start on Saturday in Colorado, playing 75 minutes before going another 90 days later. “But [the club] takes care of us so well. The way we travel, where we stay, the strength and conditioning staff, are fantastic.
“Winning championships, we know very well, is a grind,” added the veteran center back. “We're still very positive about this one.”