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Jozy Altidore getting closer to Toronto FC return as Ben Spencer departs

Jozy Altidore is close to returning to Toronto FC training after foot surgery. (Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports)

Jozy Altidore is closing in on a return to Toronto FC training.

The American underwent surgery to remove bone fragments in his foot on May 8 and was expected to be out for four to six weeks. Altidore will end up missing more time than originally envisioned as his surgical wound took longer to heal than predicted.

But Altidore was in an upbeat mood at TFC’s training ground Friday and appears set to rejoin the team in some capacity next week, after Sunday’s game at New York City FC. He will then need to work his way up to full health before becoming available for selection.

Altidore’s injury had been lingering and he played through discomfort to score five goals in 11 games between MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League before being shut down for surgery once the latter competition ended.

Spencer released by TFC

Further down Toronto’s depth chart up front, striker Ben Spencer was released and cleared waivers.

TFC first signed Spencer to its USL team on a loan deal from Norwegian club Molde in 2015. The U.S. youth international from Albuquerque, N.M., struggled with knee injuries throughout 2014 and 2015 and did not make an appearance during that stint, eventually electing for major surgery that would keep him out for a full year.

Despite the uncertainty over his health, Toronto acquired his MLS rights from Real Salt Lake and made the deal permanent. TFC coach Greg Vanney’s link with Spencer goes all the way back to their time together at RSL’s academy in Arizona, which Vanney directed before becoming an assistant coach at Chivas USA.

Since late in 2016, Toronto has worked to try to get Spencer’s career back on track. But despite his physical gifts — he stands 6 feet, 5 inches tall — and intelligent movement, the 23-year-old has looked devoid of confidence in front of goal and scored just once in 19 appearances in the USL with TFC II. At the senior level, he has no goals in five appearances, but he did record two assists last season.

Spencer’s departure leaves Toronto with one empty roster spot.

Vázquez provides window into new NYCFC coach

Vanney will face a new touchline opponent on Sunday in Domènec Torrent, who takes charge of NYCFC for the first time after replacing Patrick Vieira.

Handily, TFC’s coach will be able to glean some insight into the 55-year-old’s methods via midfielder Victor Vázquez, who played under Torrent and Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

“From Victor, I’ve heard very good things about this coach,” defender Eriq Zavaleta said. “I’ve heard that he’s going to be a similar type of coach to Patrick Vieira in terms of them wanting to build out, them wanting to play and keep the ball on the ground and do things that have made them successful over the course of the past few years.”

“He’s a really smart guy, was doing all the analysis, the video, all these things,” Vázquez told MLSSoccer.com when asked about Torrent.

Moor, Mavinga & Morgan

TFC centerback Drew Moor made his return to limited training this week as he steps up his recovery from a quad tear but, like Altidore, still has work to do to be game ready.

“It’s good to have him out there and involved in various parts of the training session — just his presence, his voice,” Vanney said. “To see him moving around again and getting his soccer boots on, if you will, is a positive thing. He still has a bit of time left because when you have a quad injury, there’s a big difference between being able to run and do things and being able to really strike the ball. He’s still got a bit of work to do, but just in terms of having the vast majority of our guys on the field now, it’s a good feeling.”

Chris Mavinga, one of Moor’s partners in the middle, is rehabbing a hamstring issue at the French federation’s Clairefontaine training center, where he is familiar with the medical staff. He is expected to miss two more weeks. Left back Ashtone Morgan is healthy but may sit out the NYCFC game having only had one day of full training after recovering from his own hamstring injury.

Marky Delgado will be available for selection. The midfielder has been training regularly but has logged just 58 minutes through the past five games due to muscle tightness.

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