Before Saturday's game at BMO Field, Toronto FC was given a glimmer of hope after a tough couple of weeks on the injury front. Jozy Altidore, who has missed the last ten matches in all competitions, took to the field to do some warm up drills ahead of Toronto FC's 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders. By all accounts, he looked to be in good shape.
News out of training today is that Altidore's hamstring injury is now day to day, and he returned to practice alongside his teammates. The 26-year-old American's return will certainly give Toronto some confidence heading into a difficult stretch without many key pieces.
But a lot has happened in Altidore's absence, as Toronto desperately tried to fill the void he left when he went down to injury. Recently, they have, as rookie forward Jordan Hamilton has exploded onto the scene and done everything right since being added to the Toronto lineup. This begs the question: does Altidore walk back into a starting spot on this team?
"Jordan, he's taken his opportunity with both hands," said coach Greg Vanney after Saturday's match. "He's scored a number of goals for us, and he's competed hard in all of the matches that he's played. For me, he's earned himself a real opportunity, regardless of who is here and regardless of the time."
Objectively, Altidore is still far better than any other option at Toronto FC's disposal. He is a proven commodity, one that works well with Sebastian Giovinco, and can score consistently at the MLS level. He is one of the best hold up strikers in the league, and an underrated playmaker.
This year, however, he has struggled to do the one thing that is at the top of his resume: putting the ball in the back of the net. Hamilton has, scoring four goals in eight matches this season for Toronto FC, including goals in Toronto's last two MLS matches. Meanwhile, he has also held up the ball well, is starting to find his teammates, especially Giovinco.
It has been an incredible turn of fortunes for a player in Hamilton, who at the start of the season was considered really on the outside looking in for Toronto, and fell behind Mo Babouli in the depth chart. However, as Vanney mentioned, he took his chance scoring twice in his first ever start for Toronto FC.
He has presented Vanney to a difficult choice, as Altidore is one of the players around which this franchise has been built. As has been said in the past, he costs this team far too much money to sit on the bench. Nothing about his performances early in the season meant he deserved to either.
There is also the other wrinkle that might be added to the conversation soon: reinforcements. Word out of training today was the first time the club has expressed its intentions to sign Canadian Tosaint Ricketts, which has long been rumoured. While Ricketts also presents an option on the wing, where does he sit relative to Hamilton and Altidore on the striker depth chart?
Ultimately, all signs point to the fact that Altidore will be starting again for Toronto FC in a couple of weeks. But he won't get there without a fight, Hamilton certainly deserves that much. After all, if Altidore can't beat out a 20-year-old rookie, there will be serious questions as to why Toronto FC are paying him as much as they are.
Either way, Altidore's return for injury, and the subsequent striker depth that it injects into the team, is great news. Altidore and Hamilton pushing each other may finally lead to Toronto FC breaking out of this current goalscoring slump.