In what is already a 12-year pro career, Jozy Altidore
has been knocked for not scoring on the big stage.
He played 70 games in the EPL with Hull City and Sunderland and scored just two goals. That's one more goal than he
scored in two seasons with Villarreal in La Liga.
Altidore didn't score in the final World Cup 2018 qualifier at Trinidad & Tobago and has heard it from U.S. fans ever since.
What everyone forgets is the goals he's scored. The winner in the 2-0 victory over Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, arguably the national team's greatest achievement ever. The record
five-game scoring streak for the USA in 2013. The 31 goals in all competitions for Dutch club AZ in 2012-13, the most ever by an American in Europe.
Altidore's goal that gave Toronto FC a
1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night and moved it into next Saturday's MLS Cup will mean nothing if TFC doesn't cap its record-setting season with a postseason championship.
But the goal certainly endeared him to Toronto fans.
It came after he injured his ankle in a freak accident when Crew defender Harrison Afful
fell on him. By staying in the game,
Altidore was trying to give time for someone to get warmed up and replace him.
"I knew I couldn’t continue," he said. "I had a problem with this ankle at the beginning of the
year. I just knew, obviously, it’s not a long-term thing but I knew that I would have trouble continuing at the level we needed. I also wanted to give whoever was coming on potentially a
little time to get ready."
He also knew that he wanted one last chance to make a play, and he got it in the 60th minute when teammates Sebastian Giovinco
and Victor Vazquez
teamed up to feed him the ball. In what his coach, Greg Vanney
, called his "Keyser Soze" moment, Altidore blew past rookie Crew defender Lalas Abubakar
and beat Zack Steffen
the far post.
In his final sprint of the evening, Altidore raced to the corner and celebrated with the TFC subs who were warming up.
But, yes, his ankle hurt.
felt it the whole time actually," he said. "It is these moments that you live for. For nights like this when everything is on the line. Everything is to play for. You have everybody at
your neck and team to put together a performance like this. It’s a very very good team that, let’s be honest, stifled us for the first 45 minutes. They were defensively ready. They had a
good game plan. They made it hard on us but we found a way and like we have so many times this year to get a big win."
Like his U.S. teammate and long-time friend Michael
, Altidore might never win over fans back home south of the border, but he is a hero in Toronto.
"This city means a lot to me," he said. "When I came, I didn't know what to
expect. I'm sure a lot of people didn't know what to expect from me. We were feeling each other out. It's a beautiful love story because I fell in love with the city, and I think the fans have fallen
in love with me.