The Jozy Problem

When hope isn't enough

When Toronto FC needed a hero; Jozy Altidore delivered.  

That’s paraphrasing Luke Wileman’s famous (in TFC circles, anyway) call in the 2017 Eastern Final versus Columbus. I say paraphrasing, because the actual line was “When Toronto FC needed a hero; Jozy Altidore delivers.”

That was in the present tense, with a promise for the future. And, there is little doubt that it was true at the time. He most certainly did deliver that night and repeated the feat a couple weeks later when he set BMO Field alight on Toronto FC’s biggest night.

(Luke does good work).

That magical (or tragic, if you are a Montreal Impact fan) night was 1,149 days ago at the time of writing. Sadly, over that time Jozy hasn’t delivered nearly as often. In fact, in 2020 he arguably only did on one occasion, when he scored a late goal versus Montreal – then shushed the Montreal Ultras in the delightful way Jozy Jozys – to put TFC in the driver’s seat to win the Voyageurs Cup.

That’s the thing about Jozy. Just when you’re ready to give up he does something that makes people remember how good he can be. It’s that flash of power and eye for goal that has made team after team believe that they can be the one to get the full display out of him. That they have a magical training staff that can keep his hamstring attached to his body, and his brain focused on the task at hand long enough to get the job done.

In reality, it’s only been that stretch in 2017 and early 2018 that saw TFC win the MLS Cup and come within a Marky Delgado sitter (or Alex Bono reading the wind right) away from becoming the champions of CONCACAF that Jozy has sustained the potential that everyone sees.

So, when he came down with yet another injury at the USMNT camp in January and ended up missing the US’ 7-0 win (yikes) over T&T, no one was surprised. And, when Gregg Berhalter let it slip that there might be a transfer request out there from Jozy, a significant amount of TFC fans weren’t that upset at the idea of losing him.

The reaction was in contrast to when he re-signed before the 2019 season. Then, memories of the ‘17 season were fresher and the sting of losing Sebastian Giovinco was very much hanging over things. Then, it was seen as a potential disaster if Jozy was allowed to walk and TFC management must have agreed, as they signed him to a three year extension.

That contract ends in 2022 and is seen as a bad piece of business by many TFC fans.

The reason that those fans might be right has mostly been covered already. The justification for keeping him is a little harder.

For balance, let’s try: According to Whoscored.com, Jozy still does put up above average offensive indicators when he does play. He’s shots per 90 (2.3) last season was the 23rd best in the entire league and was 13th among forwards. That’s not DP level, but it is a level that would require TFC to find a replacement for the output.

So, yeah, it’s not exactly a compelling argument, is it….

The truth is that the reason you keep Jozy comes down to the reason you get Jozy – hope. You hope he stays healthy and you hope he stays motivated and you hope you’re not crazy to hope.

You also worry that he will do all those things against you if you let him go.

In reality, TFC might not be able to move Jozy because it is increasingly difficult to believe that there is another perfect storm on the horizon that will allow Jozy to excel. It’s particularly difficult to see him staying healthy in a season that will see him called up by the USMNT three times during the business end of the 2021 season (if there is a 2021 season).

So, it’s probably right for TFC to be looking for a suitor.

Who might be willing? That’s a harder question to answer, but it’s likely that they could find someone. Maybe Greg Vanney is interested – they are already making noise about bringing Seba back to L.A., so why not get the whole band back together?

Opening up two DP spots would allow TFC management to move fully on from the championship era. That’s sad, but most understand the time is approaching where that change will be forced upon TFC. This might allow them to control the transition a bit more.

And, if this is the end for Jozy, it’s perfectly acceptable for fans to have mixed emotions about it. Yes, it is probably time, but he absolutely was there when TFC needed that hero.    

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