TORONTO – While the game was a disappointment, Jozy Altidore continues to shine for Toronto FC.
TFC drew 2-2 with the visiting Chicago Fire on Saturday despite dominating nearly every statistical category. It was a letdown for a team that headed into the match with a perfect 3-0 record, but the tie was still enough to propel the club to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, at least temporarily.
While the mood in the locker room was a gloomy one, an obvious positive from Saturday’s match was the play of Altidore, who extended his goal-scoring streak to three games and added the game-tying assist for good measure.
“I thought he was excellent,” TFC head coach Greg Vanney said after the match. “Both when he played centrally and he really was playing physical and doing a great job holding up the ball, but also he found a couple moments to drift out to the wide channels to find the ball facing forward.”
Altidore varied his attack in order to try to solve a stingy Chicago defence that packed numbers in front of goal in order to limit his and teammate Alejandro Pozuelo’s opportunities. The Fire’s game plan was effective for large stretches, but Altidore’s willingness to mix it up presented problems for the visitors at times.
In addition to his early goal, which came off a pinpoint Pozuelo cross, 29-year-old Altidore harkened back to his younger days by venturing out wide and looking to play the role of provider as well as finisher.
It resulted in Jonathan Osorio’s game-tying header, scored in the 76th minute after a good bit of trickery from Altidore on the right wing.
While it resulted in a crucial goal, TFC has traditionally found success with Altidore remaining in front of goal and being on the receiving end of crosses rather than delivering them. That’s likely where he’ll be found, for the most part.
“Obviously the [Osorio] goal comes off of [Altidore] getting out wide and getting to the end line and getting a cross, but if we can limit the moments that Jozy’s on the sideline it’s probably better for us,” Vanney said.
Altidore finished the match with six shots, 84 percent pass completion, and having won seven of his 11 duels. It was a complete performance in a season that has seen the big American striker get off to a great start for Toronto after missing 21 regular season games last year.
With TFC still undefeated to start the campaign, a lot of the credit lies on the broad shoulders of its top striker. If Altidore can remain healthy for most of the year, TFC may be able to replicate some of its more recent successes.