Since his arrival in 2015, 27-year-old Jozy Altidore has turned many heads in his time in Toronto after coming off an unsuccessful two-year spell in the English Premier League with Sunderland. His importance to the Reds’ squad should not go unnoticed.
Altidore has all the attributes of your typical ‘No. 9’ - tall, bulky, strong and a great work ethic are just a few of the characteristics of the USA international. He causes havoc for opposition defenders game in, game out and is a nightmare to mark in various situations, whether it be from open play or through a set piece.
Greg Vanney has started to deploy a 3-4-1-2 formation this season, with Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco linking together up top along with newcomer Victor Vazquez, who roams behind them as the ‘10’. It's no secret that Giovinco and Altidore are one of the most dangerous forward duos in the MLS, and the two complement each other well.
Giovinco, known for his superb pace and agility, also has elite skill on the ball, which allows him to hold onto the ball more often to draw defenders in and create space for his teammates. Altidore feeds off of this very effectively. The big, strong American is fantastic in holding the ball up and creating different options to lay it off because of his ability to keep a defender on his back. This is a major part in the success the partnership has had together, as the successful link-up play between the two force defenders to put in a hard shift in order to contain them for 90 minutes.
Another strong component to Altidore's game is his football IQ. His ability to see the available space, fill the gap and lay it off to one of his teammates in space is something that is undervalued and goes unnoticed at times. Even though through six matches so far this season we've seen only a single win in Vancouver, with four draws and a loss, the system is in place and the results will come down the stretch. Altidore has arguably been TFC’s best player thus far.
I was at the match versus Atlanta United last Saturday, which ended in a 2-2 draw. However, Giovinco's first goal of the season, thanks to a brilliant flick-on by Altidore, was a thing of beauty and something worth noting through the build-up. Through these photos, let’s take a look at the play leading to Giovinco's goal and how Altidore used the space given to him to play in a beautiful back-heel flick for the equalizer.
With Justin Morrow on the ball, Altidore finds the space between the two defenders on the edge of the area.
Vazquez controls the ball, seeing the space Altidore has found in between the defenders.
Vazquez brings the ball into the middle, Giovinco sits right in front of him and Altidore sets up to receive the ball to his feet, exploiting the space given to him on the edge of the area.
The ball finds Altidore's boot, and with a defender on his back he sees Giovinco making a run to his right to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Altidore successfully finds Giovinco with a cheeky back-heel flick, putting the Atomic Ant through on goal.
The equalizer! A superb goal from the Italian set up by a great first ball from Vazquez and a clever flick by Altidore.
As seen from these photos, Altidore's ability to find his partner darting through defenders in tight spaces is something many strikers, especially in MLS, lack. The 27-year-old has many attributes that contribute to his success but his presence stands out.
In his last two seasons with the Reds, Altidore has found the back of the net 28 times; an impressive tally for a player that struggled to find form with a poor Sunderland side. Aside from his finishing ability in front of goal, his ability to find space, hold the ball up and create lanes for his teammates are all underrated aspects of his game. Down the stretch, his performances will be crucial in tight, physical matches that will have playoff implications.
This, in my eyes, is how Altidore has become crucial to Toronto FC’s success alongside fellow designated players Giovinco and Michael Bradley.