Jozy Altidore finally made his first start for Toronto FC this past weekend, after suffering from a strained hamstring. The injury caused him to miss a few game to start the season and only make cameo appearances in others. Was Altidore's absence the cause of TFC's lack of chance creation? How important is he to the attack?
It's a question complicated by how Greg Vanney began the season tactically. While the conservative approach was partially a product of 8 road games to open the year, missing their big target man also had to have played an effect on the tactics.
Broadcasters had referred to Toronto's formation in the early games as a 4-3-3 but to me it resembled more of a 4-1-4-1 (every Canadian MNT fan's favourite...). There was a lot of isolation between the midfield and Giovinco resulting in the Atomic Ant creating for himself.
Vanney put out a 4-4-2 formation to begin the game at Gillette Stadium, the idea being Altidore and Giovinco being able to combine off of each other. However, he had to adjust tactics due to difficulties bringing the ball up the pitch.
It appeared that Giovinco dropped slightly deeper to collect the ball with Altidore providing hold up play. If they proceed with this tactic, this is where Altidore is most valuable.
With Altidore holding the ball up it will allow time for Giovinco to surge forward and get on the ball to shoot or create an opportunity. One part of Seba's game that is easy to forget is so strong is his ability to make the final key pass. When he was furthest forward there was rarely the time or the options to do just that.
Another important part of Altidore's game is his aerial ability. During the first 5 games, the opponents were willing to give up the cross with no real threat to finish off the ball. Altidore provides a serious goal scoring threat from crosses and all set pieces as seen in his powerful header that just went over the net on Saturday.
Altidore's play ran a bit hot and cold last season - but his absence from the lineup thus far has demonstrated the need for his presence or another second striker ahead of the dynamic MVP. Now that he's back, Toronto's dormant offense will hopefully wake up.