TORONTO — A remarkable 4-3 win for Toronto FC Friday night was followed by an equally remarkable postgame interview with Reds forward Jozy Altidore.
Having been substituted with what coach Greg Vanney described as hamstring tightness in the 82nd minute, Altidore made his way over to reporters specifically to explain his frustration over the release of a TFC trainer, Giuseppe Gueli, who he had worked with to prevent muscle injuries since his arrival in 2015.
Pro Soccer USA confirmed Gueli was strongly associated with the departed Sebastian Giovinco and was let go when TFC sold Giovinco to Saudi club Al-Hilal in January. A source, however, disputed Altidore’s claim that Gueli is no longer “allowed in the building.” Gueli has been at the club’s training ground since his full-time role was terminated. The purpose of that visit is unknown.
Altidore, though, accused Toronto president Bill Manning of playing “games of egos” by preventing the trainer from continuing with the club in the wake of Giovinco’s sale. A full transcript of Altidore’s exchange with reporters is below, followed by comments from Michael Bradley about the situation.
Q: How are you feeling?
Jozy Altidore: “We’ll see, man — hopefully better. It’s bittersweet because this could have been avoided, but you’ll have to ask Bill Manning why it’s not avoided. It’s just disappointing. I’m just disappointed.”
Q: What was the issue? What could have been avoided?
JA: “Well, we had a trainer here the last three years that’s been helping me with muscle injuries, but because he was attached to Seba, he’s not allowed at the club, which I think is ridiculous.
“And so now this is what I’m faced with — games of egos and that [kind of] thing. Hopefully [Manning] can put his ego aside and I can get the guy that’s kept me healthy, kept Michael [Bradley] healthy, kept a bunch of the guys healthy, and we can make things move forward.
“To run a club, you’ve got to be able to put your ego aside and put the players first, so hopefully that will change.”
Q: Were you stretching (the muscle) out a bit in the first few minutes?
JA: “No, no. I was trying. … I felt OK. I was trying to get through it. I’ve been having trouble all week, but again, like I said, the person we’ve been working with the last three and a half, four years is not allowed in the building.
“You give everything on the field, you give everything for the city, you give everything for your teammates, and because of a little … whatever, misunderstanding with a guy, a player’s gotta pay the price. I just think that’s ridiculous.”
Q: Has Bill explained the reasoning?
JA: “You can ask him. He’s not here. He’s not around, so you can’t find him. You go to his office and he’s not there, he’s travelling, he’s this and that, so I wish I knew, but I don’t know.”
Q: Was this trainer employed by the club?
JA: “Yes. He was employed by the club and as soon as Seba left, he was terminated. I think that’s amazing. But I take full responsibility. I’m a professional, obviously. What works, works, and I just want to know why we can’t have that, why we have to let certain things get in the way of our success as a group, as a team.”
Q: How was the new turf?
JA: “Spectacular. Great pitch. I think everybody should be really pleased with it. Hopefully we can keep it up and both teams can have a good surface to play.”
Q: Would this trainer work on you daily?
JA: “Daily. Every day. He worked with the whole team, a bunch of the guys. And yeah, for a vendetta or whatever it is, he’s not around. It’s just sad.”
Following Altidore’s comments, Toronto captain Michael Bradley was filled in on his teammate’s account and asked for his own views.
Here is what Bradley said: “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in terms of trying to make sure that we can have the right medical staff in place, and obviously Greg, [director of sports science] Jim Liston, Ali [Curtis, general manager], Bill, they’re all working hard to try to make sure that as players, we have everything we need.
“Jozy is a guy who feels like at this point in his career he knows exactly what he needs. He knows exactly what he needs to do day in and day out to keep himself healthy, fit and ready to play at the highest level.
“I’m hopeful that there is a solution here, because I think a lot of us certainly feel strongly that, again, . . . the staff behind the scenes is in place and is right. I think that in time, it will absolutely get taken care of.
“Obviously after a game, there is emotion — good and bad. Big three points, obviously frustration to lose one of our best, most important players now for a little bit. So, I certainly understand his frustration and I’m with him, but I’m certainly hopeful that we can find — behind the scenes, internally — the right solution for everybody.”