TORONTO, Canada—Since the appointment of new head coach Chris Armas, it’s been a fairly uneventful start to the year for TFC. All of that changed, however, when some headline-grabbing comments from Gregg Berhalter thrust Jozy Altidore centre stage, and now suddenly, it’s all going off in the offseason.
On the latest episode of Waking The Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks Live, the crew—Mitchell Tierney, Michael Singh, and Jeffrey P. Nesker—discuss competing takes on the Altidore rumours and unpack what might be the motivations of the (potentially) disgruntled striker.
Is the club legend really forcing a way out of BMO Field? Or is there more to the story than meets the eye? For Singh, the headlines might be a little too neat, and the reality a little more complex:
“I feel the Jeff Carlisle story couldn’t have been scripted any better. It’s Ali Curtis, who’s one polarizing figure here at TFC, and then you have Jozy Altidore who almost represents old TFC. And those two are kind of clashing heads at this dramatic breaking point. That’s how Carlisle puts it.”
“Come on...I don’t see it like that. That’s a little bit of a selling point maybe. Or maybe he heard it and ran with it. But I think there are three ways TFC fans are perceiving this: One is that there’s legs to the rumours that Carlisle put out, and that Ali Curtis and Jozy Altidore really are clashing; that there’s contract disputes and the TFC striker wants out.”
“The second is that although Jozy put out a cryptic tweet denying the story, he never actually comes out and says anything clearly. So perhaps there’s some truth that he wants out of TFC, but maybe it’s not because of a clash with Ali Curtis.”
Don’t believe everything you read. The devil is working overtime.— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) January 30, 2021
“The third is that it’s all completely bogus and Jozy Altidore has all intentions of remaining at Toronto FC next season. I know you can laugh–but Jozy’s a smart guy. We can look back at training camp last season, when he came out and defended Michael Bradley with those comments bashing the TFC training staff. What was the biggest story that day? It was about Jozy Altidore bashing the club instead of Michael Bradley’s injury, and how the club had mismanaged it and that (Bradley) would be out for the next four months.”
“Jozy’s a smart guy. Instead of having the narrative on TFC, the narrative is on Jozy Altidore. Maybe he’s just a genius and this is some kind of gamesmanship from him. Because #TFCLive was completely dead before that and the new coach wasn’t welcomed warmly. It could be that he just wanted to spark up a little bit of something? But, you know, where this is smoke perhaps there is fire. I think this could play out into the beginning of the season and I don’t know if we’re going to get a firm answer on this.”
For Nesker, discussions surrounding Jozy’s departure point to an increasing double bind: the clash between TFC’s lofty ambitions on the one hand and the implications of attracting the footballing world’s attention on the other. Whether it’s highly paid veterans with an eye on the World Cup like Altidore, or starlets bursting out of the academy like Ayo Akinola—no major team can have their footballing cake and eat it too:
“We’ve wanted to be a big club with a seat at the table in the global soccer mosaic for a long time. And now we’re getting there—and it’s not all good.”
“There is a sacrifice to be made for stepping up to the table and being a part of the wider soccer mosaic. And this applies to Ayo attracting interest because now we’re on everybody’s radar. And this applies to Jozy.”
“We are not number one in the global soccer hierarchy, and even the nations and teams that are number one do not get to keep their marquee players for their entire career. That’s just something that doesn’t happen in soccer. It’s something that North American sports fans–and Toronto sports fans especially—have in their DNA as an expectation. So be careful what you wish for, because we’re now getting what we wanted and it ain’t all good right?”
And for Singh, this might be the crucial point: TFC have become a team that recruits top players and that can win the top accolades. But can they step up into the uncharted territory and become a team with concrete links to football on the highest stage? Can BMO Field become a legitimate pathway to the EPL or La Liga? And if it doesn’t, are future stars like Ayo likely to have their heads turn early, and resist longer contracts with the club?
“We’re getting to this point now where TFC are going to have to be bringing up these youngsters through the club, and Akinola could be the first to make that jump overseas—because that’s where everyone else wants to go. That’s where Jayden Nelson wants to go, that’s where Ralph Priso wants to go, that’s where all of these kids want to go.”
“They don’t grow up dreaming of being a member of Toronto FC for life, they grow up wanting to wear a Man Utd shirt. Perhaps the easiest way to get them there is through TFC - but only if TFC shows that they can sell players to the right clubs, get players in the best positions to succeed.”
“Or perhaps it’ll be the players doing it on their own, and if that means running out their contract and not signing long term deals with the club then that’s what it means. But I think it’s important for TFC to show that they can get these players to where they want to go - because like I said - these players want to get there and they want TFC to help them. So TFC needs to find a way to do that.”
"I think it's important for TFC to show they can get these players to where they want to go." @MichaelSingh94 on young TFC players wanting to grow their careers overseas @WakingtheRed #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/H9tjOLY2Tq— Footy Talks (@FootyTalksLive) February 2, 2021