Toronto FC says it plans to use the international break to determine the future of disgruntled star striker Jozy Altidore with the club.
News that the U.S. international was at odds with TFC emerged this week with ESPN reporting Thursday that Altidore had been told to train apart from the first team after confronting coach Chris Armas in the wake of being substituted in the 70th minute of last weekend's 1-0 loss at Orlando City.
Due to the international break, Toronto doesn't play again until June 19 after Saturday's match in Columbus. Altidore was not listed on the club's game-day squad.
"While there was an incident that we weren't happy with at the Orlando game — and I know people would like greater detail — we still are going to use the international break to discuss the situation, in-house," general manager Ali Curtis told The Canadian Press on Saturday.
"That conversation will be handled internally," he added. "It will be a club decision. And it will incorporate what I would say is the totality of the time that Jozy has been with the club, such that we arrive at a resolution that is in the best interests of the club — and moves us closer to being in a position to win a championship."
Previously the only comment the MLS club had made on the Altidore situation was that it was an "internal matter that we are keeping in-house."
Essentially the club does not want to air its dirty laundry in public. But the planned talks will determine whether Altidore stays or goes. And Curtis made it clear that the discussion will cover more than the incident at the Orlando game.
Curtis declined to detail Altidore's issue with the club.
"It's important that we have conversations and share with him our perspective from the club. We're open to listening to his perspective as a player," Curtis said.
With Toronto training in Orlando due to pandemic-related travel restrictions and limited virtual availabilities, the club has operated out of the public eye — until this week when news of the Altidore rift broke.
Altidore is in his seventh season with Toronto, which signed him to a three-year contract extension in February 2019. He is making US$3.6 million this season, according to the MLS Players Association.
Altidore, who has previously played in Spain, England, Turkey and the Netherlands, has spoken warmly in the past about his affection for Toronto and its fans.
The burly forward ranks second in career goal-scoring for Toronto FC with 75 goals in all competitions, second only to former Italian star Sebastian Giovinco's 83. He stands sixth in club ranks with 160 appearances in all competitions.
"Jozy's been with the club a long time, so we want to take the time that's needed to arrive at the right resolution," said Curtis.
Injuries and illness have restricted Altidore's availability this season. He has one goal in four league appearances (189 minutes) for Toronto, which was an underwhelming 1-3-2 in MLS play ahead of the Columbus game.
Altidore rarely speaks to Toronto reporters, usually preferring to share via social media. But his teammates have spoken enthusiastically about his support and encouragement. And Armas, speaking to reporters, has talked up Altidore, citing his work ethic and commitment.
Still, it’s not the first time Altidore’s future with the club has come into question. In January, U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter turned heads when he said “a number of clubs” had expressed interest in Altidore, citing it as one of the reasons why he wasn’t playing in an upcoming international friendly.
The TFC striker responded on social media, saying “Don’t believe everything you read. The devil is working overtime.”
Altidore has scored 42 goals in 115 appearances for the U.S.
In January 2020, Altidore criticized TFC over its handling of captain Michael Bradley’s ankle injury.
In April 2019, he accused Toronto president Bill Manning of putting his ego ahead of player welfare by banning a valued trainer because of his association with Giovinco. A deal was soon struck to bring the trainer back into the fold and Altidore apologized.
Altidore elected to spend the initial COVID lockdown last year at his Florida home, making for a delayed re-entry to the Toronto camp north of the border after serving his required quarantine.
After the NBA and other teams elected not to play in late August last year in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Altidore sat out TFC’s game in Montreal for “personal reasons,” according to then-Toronto coach Greg Vanney.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press