KENYA BROWN - Friday, January 16, 2015
Jozy Altidore's hellish 18-month spell at Sunderland has come to an end as he was officially unveiled as a Toronto FC player on Friday.
As part of the deal to acquire the U.S. national team forward, Toronto agreed to send English international Jermaine Defoe to the Black Cats, only one year after making the move away from Tottenham Hotspur.
According to reports, Altidore has signed a five-year contract for around $30 million, a deal somewhat similar to players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley.
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said at a press conference at the Air Canada Center that the signing of Altidore means that they have someone who understands the league.
"Jozy understands the challenges of Major League Soccer. He understands what this league is about. With that, we get some certainty with Jozy," he said.
Altidore first came onto the soccer scene in 2006 as the New York Red Bulls took him as the seventeenth overall pick at that year's MLS SuperDraft. He would go on to make his debut for the team on August 23, 2006 as a substitute against DC United in a U.S. Open Cup game. After two years at New York, he made the move to Spain's La Liga as Villarreal and MLS agreed to a reported $10 million transfer to the budding player.
After only scoring one goal and failing to impress on loan spells to Xerez, Hull and Bursaspor, the New Jersey native found a lifeline as former U.S. national team member and current AZ Alkmaar director Earnie Stewart brought him to the Dutch Eredivisie in 2011.
Despite criticism that the league would be a step down for him, the move paid off as Altidore went on to score 22 goals in all competitions in his first season. He followed that up the next season by scoring 31 goals in all competitions.
Now 25 years old and after not succeeding at Sunderland where he scored only one league goal in 42 appearances, Altidore was more than welcome to the change of environment. And it was teammate and friend Michael Bradley who led him to seal the deal with the Canadian side.
"Mikey was huge," Altidore said at the press conference. "Michael's an honest guy. He told me from the start, ‘Jozy you will quickly see they have the same desires as we do,' to get better and to make a statement in terms of what we're all about."
As for the coach, who took a shot at the departing Defoe, he feels that he now has a designated player in Altidore who will show his commitment to Toronto as they try to qualify for the playoffs for the first time this upcoming season.
"We want our DPs to want to be here, to be connected to each other so that we can build around them and we get that with Jozy and Michael and we want certainty," he said.
Meanwhile, Altidore hopes the move back to MLS will help him not only regain his scoring touch but also boost his confidence which dropped considerably .
"I'm very hungry to succeed. I wouldn't have come here for any other reason."