SEATTLE — If Jozy Altidore is to be believed, it seems unlikely he will play in this weekend’s MLS Cup final.
The topic of Altidore’s availability for Sunday’s championship game against the Seattle Sounders was a hot one Thursday, and the Toronto FC striker provided an update during a press conference in downtown Seattle.
Altidore stated his injured quad is healing, but it is still unclear whether he will be ready to take on the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
“I haven’t played any soccer in a month, so that’s where I’m at,” Altidore said. “I’m trying to jog, I’m trying to change pace, I’m trying to do those types of things. But like I said, I have to let the muscle heal first or else you put yourself at risk. I’m not tell you no false truths or nothing like that, I’m actually being very candid.
“That’s where I am. I’m not happy about it, but it is what it is.”
Having picked up the injury on the final day of the regular season Oct. 6, Altidore has yet to feature in these playoffs. That combined with his Thursday declarations creates a grim enough outlook regarding his chances of seeing the field Sunday. However, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer and even Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney have told the media in recent days that they expect the American forward to play in some capacity.
Altidore did not guarantee his participation, though.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I still have to progress,” Altidore said when asked if he could play 10-to-15 minutes off the bench. “It sounds silly but there’s still things like kicking the ball that I have to do that with this type of injury is tricky.
“I’m trying my very best, I’m doing everything I can, and we’re all hoping, I’m hoping, to obviously play some sort of part in the game.”
If Altidore is unable to start, Toronto FC is likely to once again turn to Alejandro Pozuelo at the tip of the attack. The Spaniard has been moved out of his traditional attacking midfielder spot to fill the void left by Altidore during the postseason and has fared pretty well there, with two goals and two assists in Toronto FC’s unlikely run to the final.
“I’ve had to play a bit as a false nine, which is a position I like to play because I feel a bit free,” Pozuelo said. “I can move more or less where I want in it, but we all know Jozy is very important and has other, very different qualities that also help us out a lot.
“If he’s not there on Sunday, then I’ll do everything as well as I can so that the team can benefit from it.”
The Sounders, meanwhile, are readying for both instances. They know Toronto FC can be a dangerous team with or without Altidore in the lineup.
“Honestly, whether Jozy is there or not,” Sounders center back Roman Torres said, “I think we have to have that level of concentration and still be organized defensively.”