Goals have never come easy for Toronto FC, and when they do the source tends to get injured shortly afterwards. Between Danny Koevermans and Jermain Defoe, Toronto have struggled to keep their most prolific goalscorers on their feet for long.
After scoring 6 goals in his first 9 matches in all competitions with Toronto FC, Jozy Altidore has befallen the same fate. Reports today indicated that he would be out 4-5 with a strained hamstring, and his absence could be even longer considering his injury's proximity to the Gold Cup.
The question to be asked is not whether or not Toronto can survive without Altidore, it is how much better they are than last year's squad. A year ago, this Toronto team was faced with a similar test when Jermain Defoe went down with injury. Evidently, they failed miserably.
Is this current squad good enough to keep the goalscoring going? The truth is that they probably aren't and Toronto should be exploring the market to look for quick fixes.
Jack McInerney comes to mind as an example, a player who has recently become unsettled with Montreal. Otherwise, Toronto will have to look within for a fix to their broken part.
There are some key differences from this year to last, and a lot have to do with the timing and different factors around the injury. For one, Defoe was hurt a lot later in the season, and therefore Toronto had less time to create a Defoe-less identity or strategy.
They also didn't plan for a Defoe injury, the same way that Toronto knew for certain that Jozy Altidore would be gone at the Gold Cup. Sure, there was likely a contingency plan if Defoe had made the England World Cup squad, but he was always a longshot to make the team.
Sebastian Giovinco makes a world of difference as well. Without Defoe, Gilberto struggled last season to carry the team's offense. You can bet that Giovinco won't have the same problems, even if he will be watched even closer by opponents without Altidore on the field.
The worry, however, is that Toronto doesn't have Gilberto, or someone like him, to pick up the slack as a number 9 while the big dog is at the vet. Luke Moore was effective as a mess cleaner for Gilberto last year, but individually has proven to be ineffective.
Robbie Findley makes the most sense in the role for the time being, even if he hasn't exactly been the most noticeable red so far this year. To be fair, he has been forced into a winger's role so far this year. Altidore's injury could put him back in a familiar part of the field up top.
A situation like this was exactly why many were concerned when the club loaned Bright Dike to the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL. Due to the MLS window now being closed recalling Dike from loan will not be an option until mid-July. But maybe Dike's absence is more an indication of Toronto's belief in its academy products.
Jordan Hamilton has been up with the main team since the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup against the Montreal Impact, and this injury might just extend his stay. He has almost no MLS experience, but his upside is probably bigger than some other options.
While there was plenty of debate before the season about whether or not brining Jozy Altidore in from Sunderland was a good move, almost all now agree that this injury is a massive blow to the team.
The next month will be telling as to whether or not this team really is competitive without one of its best players.