Toronto FC’s prolific offense will be put to the test Saturday versus Portland as it begins life without injured first-choice striker Jozy Altidore for the next few weeks.
TFC (4-1-1) lead the Eastern Conference with 18 goals, with Altidore tallying five times in his first four appearances. The American international, though, was forced off late in their 4-3 victory over Minnesota United on April 19 due to a hamstring injury, something that has plagued him throughout his career for both club and country.
Upset at the injury, Altidore criticized team president Bill Manning for not retaining trainer Giuseppe Gueli, who was banned from the club grounds after Sebastian Giovinco left the team. Altidore met with Manning on Monday, with the latter explaining Gueli was coming back to the team on a part-time basis, and all is right once again for Toronto FC’s top scorer.
“I let my emotions get the best of me when speaking to the media after our wild comeback win against Minnesota,” Altidore tweeted. “Bill and I connected this morning and I can confidently say we’re on the same page. I know Bill and Toronto FC are committed to pulling out all the stops and dedicated to putting the team in prime position to have a successful season. We move forward together.”
Altidore is expected to miss at least two weeks, which means the goal-scoring onus now falls to Giovinco’s replacement, Alex Pozuelo, and Jordan Hamilton. Both players had a brace in the win over the Loons, and Pozuelo has racked up four goals and five assists in just 349 minutes over four matches in all competitions.
“With the team switching to one forward – and we have four very talented forwards – whoever is getting the chance and whoever is in the role needs to perform. That’s my goal every time I get on the field this year,” Hamilton told the club’s official website.
Portland (1-5-1) continues its trek around MLS, with this the eighth of its season-opening 12-match road swing as Providence Park gets an expansion to its seating capacity. The Timbers finally broke through for their first win last Saturday by beating Columbus 3-1. Defender Larrys Mabiala and striker Jeremy Ebobisse scored four minutes apart late in the first half, and a stoppage-time strike from Jorge Moreira in the second sealed the three points.
“We’ve been searching for this a long time … but it couldn’t have worked out our way without discipline and spirit. … There were moments we had to do emergency defending, but overall it was a very good game,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “The team worked hard and as I said very disciplined, tactically, the guys they gave us everything that we needed.”
Defense continues to be a concern for the Timbers, who have yet to record a clean sheet and have yielded 18 goals. Ebobisse has three of Portland’s nine on the offensive side, and no other player has more than one.
Portland has just one draw in five all-time visits to Toronto but did record a 2-0 win in the lone meeting last year as Diego Chara and David Guzman scored second-half goals.
(Jordan Hamiltom photo courtesy Toronto FC official Twitter account)