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How Bill Manning and Jozy Altidore are the real players in TFC’s ‘work in progress’

Toronto Star’s Laura Armstrong joined Waking the Red Weekly this past Tuesday to discuss what’s bound to be an interesting time for Toronto FC fans...

Toronto FC holds the President’s Breakfast at Real Sports Bar where they unveiled the new primary jersey for 2017 season. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Toronto FC have a new manager and the club’s hunt for a new designated player (DP) goes on. But for Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star, the most significant development of the off-season might actually be a subtle political shift in the makeup of TFC’s front office.

Although he’s been at the helm since 2015, in the latest episode of the Waking The Red podcast, Armstrong argues that—with the hiring of new head coach Chirs Armas—Bill Manning is taking centre stage in what amounts to a new TFC:

“It’s so weird that they’re not Greg Vanney’s Toronto FC anymore. I think, for me, this is really Bill Manning’s team and the buck stops with him now. I wrote about it around the time that Vanney left: Before it was very much still a club that was benefitting from the behind the scenes work of Tim Leiweke, Tim Bezbatchenko, and Greg Vanney—back when they started this whole revamping of the club. And it’s not to say that Bill Manning hasn’t helped because he certainly has in the last five years, but now he’s got Ali Curtis who is his guy, he’s got Chris Armas who is his guy. I think that the buck really stops with him.”

“Was Chris Armas a risky decision? There are certainly questions about his record and about what he’s done so far to deserve such a big job in Toronto. So it’s going to be interesting to see if he can live up to it.”

“I’m not prepared to say [he won’t] because we all scratched our heads when Greg Vanney came in and then he went on to be the best in the league. But I certainly think that that’s going to be something that reflects on Bill Manning—like did you bring in the right guy?”

And while TFC and Chris Armas will face some brand new challenges, they’ll also have to deal with some old ones as well, most notably, the perennial Jozy Altidore situation.

For Armstrong, whether or not those transfer rumours are true, Altidore still has lots to give, and, in fact, may never have received the praise he truly deserves. But why is the striker so often misunderstood, and what could Chris Armas do to get the best out of the player?

“I think that Jozy has had a hard couple of years. I certainly think that at one point he made it clear he thought that Michael Bradley’s injury was mishandled and that maybe there are some frustrations there in terms of the injuries that he has had. I still think that he is a very capable player and I also think that he loves Toronto. He’s the kind of guy who could weather the storm in Toronto because he cares so deeply about the city; he cares so deeply about the fanbase, and I just think that he still has a lot to give this organization. I don’t think he gets enough credit really for what he’s done. If you look back at some of the biggest moments in TFC history in the last five years, Jozy Altidore is at the centre of a lot of them. You really see all of the stories about Michael Bradley, about Sebastian Giovinco, about Alejandro Pozuelo, about Victor Vasquez, and I don’t necessarily know that Jozy gets enough credit for what he’s done for this team.”

“I think that’s because he doesn’t speak as much. There are other guys who will come out and talk a little bit more—and certainly because of the injuries. But every time that he’s been healthy he’s come out and produced—and in really important moments.”

“I think it would be hugely bad for the club if this went poorly. If this relationship seemed to sourand sour publiclybecause I don’t think that’s what Altidore deserves and I don’t think that the fanbase would respond well to that. So, they need to find a way to patch that up and try and get something out of him before his yield does end. I mean certainly they’re going to have to move on from him eventually. He’s getting older—but for me he’s one of the pillars of this club, and I think that you have to do whatever you can to try and get him back on the field: get him healthy and once you do that I really do think he’s the kind of guy who’s going to deliver for this team because he has that track record.”

For everything TFC - check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!