Some wise man, in some village somewhere, probably offered the following proverb; If you spend your whole life asking your turtle to be a bird, eventually you’re going to be disappointed. And the turtle is going to feel disappointed that it failed to live up to expectations.
And in the case of Toronto FC; if you spend your time asking Jordan Hamilton to be Jozy Altidore...well...eventually in the 80th minute after his 4th tackle because no one moved around him, a visibly frustrated Alejandro Pozuelo will smack the ground a few times, realizing that for all their best efforts, the other players are not Jozy Altidore.
When Jozy is on the pitch, he demands a double team at most parts of the game, even 50 yards away from the net, his ability to turn his back to the defender, post him up, and receive the ball allows the TFC defense and midfield to quickly move the ball from their end, and use Jozy as a safety valve to release the pressure. Because of his immense frame, Jozy doesn't even need to advance the ball, he can simply hold it up while wing attackers catch up around him, or Michael Bradley and Pozuelo can rejoin the attack.
Last weekend against Portland, the role of Jozy Altidore was played by Jordan Hamilton, and not since the new Aunt Viv replaced the old Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was there such a miscast in an old familiar role. Jordan Hamilton is a wonderful player, one of my favourites, but he cannot do the things that Jozy does for this team.
Too often the defense, or Pozuelo, would gain the ball back in the TFC third, and look to make a quick pass up the field to start a counter attack. The problem was, no one was there. Jordan as the lone striker up top, simply didn't command the same double team respect from Portland, so it seemed that there were players in green jerseys just coming at waves at the defensive and midfield players of Toronto.
Even when Toronto did get the ball up into the middle or attacking third, having Jordan as the lone focal point of the attack in the middle of the pitch, didn't seem effective. Far too many times, when Justin Morrow or Auro Jr. played wide and tried to swing a high ball in, the numbers game favoured Portland, because Jordan was defended with a single marker.
Now this is in no way an article designed to put the blame on Jordan Hamilton for last weeks loss, as 4-5 players in a Toronto FC uniform all had below average performances. Jonathan Osorio, for one, looked like he was step off of his game. However, with Jozy out for a few more games, and my contention that he will likely miss more games down the year with these nagging injuries, it’s time to put Jordan Hamilton in a position to succeed by utilizing his best talents, rather than pigeon hole him into the Jozy Altidore role.
I think for starters, that necessitates a move back to a 3-5-2. Since both Bradley and Pozuelo can cover vast distances of the field, and Marky Delgado can play a holding/defensive midfielder role as well, the best bet is to put your 3 best defenders in the back, and perhaps move some speed to the wide wings to create pathways of moving the ball towards the sidelines. Likely an Auro Jr. and Osorio would serve well in this role. Most importantly, I would insert Ayo Akinola into the second striker position beside Hamilton. Akinola allows the two strikers to increase the width, and perhaps put a little bit of pressure on the opposing teams back line and midfield, so they’re not as comfortable playing so far up and joining their forwards on the attack.
I’ll leave the exact lineups to my colleague Benedict ‘I’m batting 90% on predictions’ Rhodes, but something needs to be done soon, so poor Jordan doesn't keep getting thrust into a role, thats just not meant for him to succeed in.
The old Aunt Viv’s shoes are just too big to fill sometimes.