Monday was a homecoming of sorts for Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Both were born in the New Jersey area, where the New York Red Bulls play. Both were drafted by and spent time with an iteration of the club as youngsters.
It sure didn’t look like it, as instead Bradley and Altidore were the prime targets in enemy territory. The pair have been subject of a lot of vitriol on the road ever since they played a role in the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
This general angst from fans makes sense. American supporters have a right to be angry about the way their team performed during qualifying this year. Booing Bradley and Altidore to express that is fine, even if their blame is largely misguided.
But Monday was different: the treatment of the two U.S. internationals was unacceptable. Toronto FC has since issued a complaint to the league after Altidore said a fan told him he didn’t deserve to be in the United States.
It doesn’t appear as though the two will stop being the prey of boo-birds any time soon when they are on the road, so it’s time for Toronto fans to make sure Bradley and Altidore feel extra special at home.
This has likely been one of the toughest stretches of the duo’s professional career; in fact, Altidore has said as much in interviews. Both have been great servants for their country (Bradley has captained the team, for heaven’s sake) yet are now being called unfit to wear the shirt. That has to hurt.
But Bradley and Altidore have done nothing but demonstrate their professionalism since returning. Altidore, in particular, has put in three solid performances since the Americans’ elimination, scoring two goals before delivering another strong outing on Monday against the Red Bulls.
Both have fully committed themselves to the project that has been taking this team from a dysfunctional underachiever to arguably the best in league history. That certainly hasn’t always been the case among star players brought in by the club.
TFC fans, for the most part, have showered these two in love as a result. But just as the opposition supporters have stepped up the hate they have been directing at them of late, it would be great for BMO Field to step up the love.
There are probably dozens of ways that Toronto fans can go about this. TFC supporters’ group U-Sector have suggested cheering Altidore and Bradley every time they touch the ball, to counteract the boos they have been getting when they touch the ball in the United States.
If Toronto are going to finally get over the final hurdle and win the MLS Cup, they need Bradley and Altidore at their best. Feeding them some positivity to counteract all the negative press and fan interactions they have been receiving can only help in that regard.