Jozy Altidore looks to reignite club career with Toronto FC move

The second time offered the chance for Jozy Altidore to make his Premier League amends. His first spell with Hull City came at a point before he found himself and honed the qualities capable of making him such a reliable and productive figure for AZ Alkmaar and the United States. His move to Sunderland in 2013 came at the right time. It just did not work out.

It is far too easy to fall into the blame game when things fall apart, but there is enough to share as Altidore exchanges Premier League Saturdays for MLS Sundays. Altidore didn’t score nearly enough or state an irrefutable case for a regular spot in the starting XI. Sunderland didn’t provide him with the supply or the support to make the best use of his talents. All of the promise of the move two summers ago fizzled into the realization that Altidore did not have the precision or the tools to succeed.

Altidore arrived at the sobering realization as he nestled himself onto the substitutes’ bench week after week and searched for a solution. The 25-year-old forward is at the age where he cannot afford to sit and snap up his wages in his quest to make a success of his time in England against all evidence to the contrary. This is the prime of his career. United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann continues to rely on him to lead the line. He wanted to take decisive action to rectify the increasingly desperate situation.

Circumstances paved the way for Altidore to join compatriot Michael Bradley at Toronto FC on Friday morning. TFC meandered through the second half of last season with Jermain Defoe primed for a return back to England. A significant swath of the Premier League expressed at least some interest in facilitating a move for the former England striker. Sunderland — a side craving goals and yearning for the combination of pace and predatory instincts so difficult to find in January — ranked among them.

THE JOZY FILE

YEARS CLUB LEAGUE APPEARANCES GOALS
2006-08 New York Red Bulls

37 15
2008-09 Villarreal 6 1
2008-09 Xerez (loan)

0 0
2009-10 Hull City (loan)

28 1
2010-11 Villarreal 3 0
2010-11 Bursaspor (loan) 12 1
2011-13 AZ 67 38
2013-15 Sunderland 42 1
    INTERNATIONAL APPEARANCES  
2007-present United States 79 26

The swap of want-away strikers required some finessing, though. The two clubs grappled over the specific details of the exchange. Defoe expected generous terms to end his lengthy TFC contract and start a new one at the Stadium of Light. Altidore wrestled with the inevitably fraught methods used to distribute his MLS rights.

Sense eventually prevailed in the end with Altidore landing in Toronto through the allocation process and Defoe returning to England. Defoe will spend the next few months trying to extricate Sunderland from the relegation mire by scoring the goals Altidore failed to deliver. Altidore will try to slide his career back on track at a club where Defoe never settled and never really showed his desire to get stuck into things when the Reds needed him the most.

Those qualities do not present an issue now with Altidore poised to step into the breach. Altidore floundered in the Premier League, but he boasts the commitment and the qualities to thrive in MLS. His rampaging approach in the final third will hound defenses and present him with more opportunities. The extra instant or two often available to take them could prove the difference between Premier League flop and MLS star.

Toronto FC lurches from plan to plan far too often, but this one might deliver a postseason berth at long last. The reunion of Altidore and Bradley creates a familiar combination capable of exerting significant influence at this level. Bradley’s ability to provide a variety of service — those delicate clips over the top of the line, those incisive balls through it — ensures the sort of supply Altidore often lacked during his time on Wearside. His considerable presence creates a measure of comfort for Altidore as he adjusts to his new surroundings, too.

Perhaps most importantly, TFC will offer a welcoming platform for Altidore to rebuild his confidence and slide his club career back on track. He spent much of the past year-and-a-half receiving warranted criticism for his impotent displays with Sunderland. This expensive show of faith represents an important boost for a player with his best years hopefully ahead of him. He is not the outcast any more. He is the star attraction and the subject of considerable debate for more positive reasons.

The corresponding effect of Altidore’s move on MLS (another American star joins the league, but the costs are adding up) and the U.S. national team (the continued migration to MLS underscores the lack of inroads made at the top levels) remains uncertain over the long-term. The fallout in those circles requires some space to take shape in the months and the years ahead.

Altidore also needs time to return to his best form, but he faces a different task as he returns to MLS once more. His first spell ended in 2008 with an eight-figure move to Villarreal and set his European odyssey in motion. He knows all too well about the difficulty of producing a proper encore after his frustrating second crack in the Premier League. He understands now is the perfect time to ensure this revival act succeeds where his previous endeavor failed.