Jozy Altidore's return stateside and to Major League Soccer has major implications for both his career and the league. Can the USMNT veteran and recent Premier League disappointment -- still just 25 years old -- regain his form and become a top goal scorer? And will he fit with Toronto FC and help lead the club to a first playoff appearance?
I sat down with him last month to talk about his move to Toronto, and when I mentioned the expectations placed upon him and the rest of his big-name teammates at TFC, Altidore was very much at ease, playful and engaging. He knows he has had many critics, but he's very much looking forward to the challenges ahead.
While a successful season for Altidore is expected, there are a few things that will need to happen to ensure consistent productivity from the U.S. international at TFC. Here's a look at the keys to Altidore's transition and his overall outlook for the 2015 MLS season.
Returning to a new-look MLS in a new role
One benefit for Altidore's move is that he's already played in MLS. He is a product of MLS, yet in his return he will find a different reality than the one he left behind in 2008 when he began his European career. In 2007, Altidore's last full season in MLS, the league had a 30-game season with a total of 13 teams. MLS now has a 34-game season with 20 teams and growing. The leading goal scorer in 2007 was Luciano Emilio with 20 goals, while last year Bradley Wright-Phillips led the way with 27. The numbers show that the environment in MLS is different, and among other things the season is longer and the expectation for a top striker is higher.
In his last MLS season Altidore was a teenager full of potential, but was merely a complementary piece in the New York Red Bulls attack (Colombian international Juan Pablo Angel was the main guy), whereas now he will be the primary attacking piece for TFC.
Altidore has shown that when he has been the featured striker, whether with the USMNT or at AZ Alkmaar, his confidence grows and so does his goal production. On the other hand, his struggles in Spain and the Premier League are well documented, and while I could analyze, dissect and probe the reasons behind his lack of performance, perhaps the explanation simply comes down to him not being able to consistently raise his game to the required level of competition. ...