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MLS Playoffs Have Been Vindicating for TFC's Jozy Altidore

The criticism Altidore once faced is a thing of the past, as the Toronto FC star is healthy and enjoying an all-time great MLS playoff performance.

by Daniel Squizzato
Dec 7 2016, 5:48pm

Photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.

Hey, remember not that long ago, when Jozy Altidore was—in the minds of some Toronto FC fans—nothing more than an overpaid, frequently injured bum?

Penny for the thoughts of those folks right about now, because the big man from New Jersey has been certifiably ablaze for the last month. He's found the back of the net in all five of TFC's playoff games, en route to the team's first-ever MLS Cup final, coming up this Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. Not only is Altidore the first player to ever score in five straight MLS postseason games, he's in the midst of one of the greatest runs of playoff form in league history.

He's among only a handful of players who've ever scored five playoff goals in a single campaign, joining all-time league greats like Jaime Moreno (with DC United in 1999) and Landon Donovan (with Kansas City in 2000). Roy Lassiter (with Tampa Bay in 1996) and Robbie Keane (with LA in 2012) scored six in a single postseason, while Carlos Ruiz bagged a remarkable eight goals in six playoff games for the LA Galaxy in 2002, including the golden-goal MLS Cup winner.

While Altidore's unlikely to tie Ruiz's record with a hat trick on Saturday—though work would immediately begin on the Jozy statue in Nathan Philips Square if he did—he'll undoubtedly feel the love from the 35,000-plus rambunctious fans at BMO Field the moment he steps on the field.

That will represent a vindicating turnaround for the 27-year-old, who's been pulverized with criticism on both sides of the pond ever since an ill-fated move to Sunderland in 2013. In fairness, he was basically invisible in England before being flipped to TFC for the homesick Jermain Defoe in 2015.

In two seasons at TFC, however, he's rediscovered his mojo, with a super-respectable half-goal-per-game strike rate. Even so, he's continued to attract flak for repeated hamstring injuries, with some taking the predictable route of equating biological mishaps with moral failings.

But now, at the most critical juncture in Toronto FC's history, Altidore is healthy, motivated and surrounded by a squad and situation where he's been able to use his strength and technical abilities to their full effect.

Not only have his postseason goals been pretty (his rocket against New York City FC) and timely (TFC's first of the Eastern Conference Championship, plus the one that put them ahead on aggregate for the first time), he's also set up his teammates at crucial moments (assisting Sebastian Giovinco on TFC's first-ever playoff goal against Philly, and setting the table for Tosaint Ricketts to clinch things against Montreal).

Whatever his history, Altidore has done basically no wrong this postseason (aside from borderline-murdering opponents, to hear fans of the Montreal Impact tell it). He and fellow designated players Giovinco and Michael Bradley have symbiotically stepped up to bring Toronto to within 90 minutes of MLS glory.

Win or lose Saturday, Altidore has turned in a playoff performance for the ages. When all is said and done, that is what fans of Toronto FC should remember him by.