Jozy Altidore is playing better than ever and he put Toronto FC in MLS Cup

In a series that saw 12 goals scored by 10 different players, how do you decide who the most important player was? As Toronto FC pushed past the Montreal Impact in a wild, instant-classic Eastern Conference final, it had a frenzied anything-goes sort of feeling.

But Jozy Altidore stood above everyone on the pitch just as he has all year. The striker not only carried Toronto FC through the playoffs to the MLS Cup, but he has carried Toronto FC all season by hitting the best form of perhaps his entire career.

It was an unthinkable scenario even just over the summer. Through July, Altidore had zero goals to his name this year in MLS. Part of that was him missing nine games to injury, but part of that was just Altidore struggling to get into a rhythm.

After a two-month injury forced him to miss Copa America — his fourth major international tournament he missed due to the same hamstring injury — Altidore returned looking rejuvenated as a player who could contribute in new and exciting ways.

We saw some of that in this epic series against the Montreal Impact. Altidore pulled Toronto ahead for the first time in the series on a spectacular header that also set an MLS record. But then he essentially put the series of out reach in the 100th minute when he out-dribbled and out-muscled Hassoun Camara, and then crossed into the path of Tosaint Ricketts who didn’t need to do much to finish.


Altidore has always been known for his imposing physical strength and his ability to hold up the ball with his back to goal, but there were deficiencies in his game that critics often complained about. He didn’t track back enough, his passing wasn’t good enough and his finishing often missed the mark.

But none of those things looked liked issues in his return. His work rate and his impact all over the field was suddenly a strength. His passing and his knack for creating goals for other players was something special. His off-the-ball movement constantly offered his teammates an outlet. Throw in some of the best 1v1 dribbling and attacking we’ve seen from Altidore in a long time, and Altidore looked almost like a new player.


That’s not to say that Altidore has done everything all on his own. Although Sebastian Giovinco was surprisingly quiet in this Eastern Conference final series against Montreal, the Italian has been Toronto’s go-to goal-scorer, leading the way with 17 goals in this regular season to Altidore’s 10.

But Giovinco’s presence has often put Altidore in more of a supporting role to set up Giovinco and the rest of Toronto FC. If anything, though, it has seemed to help Altidore grow his game and he has taken to the task of being a goal-creator on top of his clutch goal-scoring ways.

Over the course of this season, Altidore has gone from arguably rock bottom to the peak form of his career, and he’s turned into the player fans have seemingly always wanted him to be. He’s scoring goals no one would’ve expected before, and he’s creating goals in new ways.

Whatever happens on December 10 — whether Toronto FC wins the MLS Cup against the Seattle Sounders or not — this will be a season to be remembered for Altidore, who is playing better than ever and has as much to do with Toronto’s historic run to the final as anyone else.