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Altidore back in Toronto training after freeze out

Jozy Altidore was officially welcomed back by club side Toronto FC on Monday after being forced to train on his own for over seven weeks.

In a Zoom call with reporters, the forward said he held no grudges against anyone within the organization, and warned that anyone who writes TFC off is “making a big mistake,” even as the team currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

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Monday’s training session was Altidore’s first with the full group since a May 22 verbal altercation with then-manager Chris Armas. Sources told ESPN that Altidore and Armas clashed after the forward was substituted with 20 minutes to go in a 1-0 loss to Orlando City, with Altidore feeling that he and substitute Ayo Akinola should have been on the field together. While Altidore wasn’t formally suspended, he was ordered to train on his own apart from the first team.

Altidore avoided going into detail about the rift and what led up to it, but he said that he didn’t hear anything from the club for weeks. Eventually team president Bill Manning reached out him with an offer to bring him back. ESPN reported last Friday that Altidore and TFC were in the final stages of a reconciliation.

“I was really appreciative of that because I hadn’t heard from anybody for a long time,” said Altidore. “And you know I’ve been with Bill here a long time, so you know I really appreciated him calling me and trying to work things out.”

Armas was subsequently fired on July 4 with TFC floundering with a 1-8-2 record. Interim manager Javier Perez then reached out, further paving the way for Altidore’s return.

“I was grateful because I want to be here, so I’m excited,” Altidore said about the call.

When asked about the extent to which he had been treated fairly by the club during this stretch, Altidore made clear his desire to put any differences aside and move forward.

“Things happen all the time,” he said. “And I think sometimes when you’ve been in the workplace a long time, it’s important to remember, you’ve been through a lot together. And so for me, I don’t hold any grudges against anybody. I don’t believe in burning bridges. I don’t believe in wishing bad on people. And so all I want to focus on now is the positive.”

While Altidore has been part of TFC’s greatest successes, including a treble-winning season in 2017, injuries have reduced his effectiveness in recent seasons. For that reason it has been an open secret that Toronto has been eager to move Altidore and be rid of his Designated Player contract that according to the MLS Players Association pays him $3.6 million a year in guaranteed compensation. When asked about reports of him wanting to move on, Altidore didn’t dispute the notion, but added he’s eager to get back on the field.

“I’ve been very clear about my intentions here. Nobody wants to be somewhere where they weren’t wanted,” he said. “I’m never going to be in a place if I’m in the way. I want to make sure quickly that that doesn’t happen. So, things change in football. They change all the time and I’m just so happy to be back in the team. I love Toronto. All of you know that my family loves the city, and I just look forward to get back getting back on the field and playing for my family and now my boys, and trying to turn the season around.”

In terms of how soon he’ll contribute on the field, Altidore said gaining sharpness in a team setting will take some time.

Altidore said: “It’ll be a bit of something I have to work through, but it’s nothing I haven’t done before so it’ll take me probably a few weeks to get going, but it is what it is, and I’m just excited to be back here. I’m excited to play again.”

Toronto is currently tied with Miami for the fewest points in the league, but Altidore added he thinks there is ample time to turn things around.

“If there’s anybody out there that’s counting us out, that would be a mistake because in that locker room, it’s a locker room of champions, it’s a locker room of winners,” he said. “We have a new guy in Yeferson Soteldo that’s ready to set the world on fire. And we’re motivated and as hungry as ever.”

Toronto faces Orlando City this Saturday.

ESPN Premier League News

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