Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
3. Jozy Altidore guts it out
Most remember Toronto FC’s 2017 season as one of utter dominance. Indeed, they completed the domestic treble and, in the process, won their first MLS Cup, but the road to the mountaintop of Major League Soccer was paved about as well as Eglinton Avenue.
Problems for the Reds started at halftime of the second leg of their conference quarterfinals tilt with the New York Red Bulls. As a tense first half concluded, Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan came together in the tunnel. As a result of their interaction, both were shown straight reds, which carrys the weight of a one-match suspension.
Losing one striker in the midst of a playoff run is bad enough, but due to yellow card accumulation, Giovinco would miss TFC’s next match as well. Luckily, the Reds were able to hang on and advance past the Red Bulls, but a stiffer test awaited against the Columbus Crew.
The first leg, which finished goalless, was a clinic in how to “park the bus.” Forced into a formation change by the lack of firepower afforded to him, manager Greg Vanney employed a single striker (Tosaint Ricketts) at the top with five midfielders. This worked to suffocate Columbus’ attack, and held the Reds over until their talisman could return.
Back to full strength and even on aggregate, the script was set for the second leg. In the 40th minute, however, disaster struck. Altidore tumbled to the turf clutching his ankle, and was taken out to the touchline for treatment.
Not one to give up easily, the US international gutted it out, and found the side netting in the 60th minute for the game’s only goal. He was brought off to a standing ovation in the 68th minute, and his teammates held on from there to advance the Reds to the MLS Cup final once more.