Out­look ap­peals to Alti­dore

TFC striker con­fi­dent tun­nel fight video will scrap sus­pen­sion

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - LAURA ARM­STRONG SPORTS RE­PORTER

Asus­pen­sion looms over Jozy Alti­dore as Toronto FCpre­pares for the Eastern fi­nal against the Colum­bus Crew, but the star striker — speak­ing at length for the first time about last Sun­day’s half­time al­ter­ca­tion at BMO Field — says the truth is on his side and he ex­pects to play.

“I’m not re­ally dis­tracted by it be­cause I know what hap­pened, and noth­ing hap­pened that’s be­ing re­ported, so I’m fine with it,” he said. “I think the club’s do­ing a great job han­dling it, and I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing part of both legs against Colum­bus.”

Alti­dore was au­to­mat­i­cally sus­pended for the Nov. 21 opener of the two-leg show­down in Colum­bus when he was red-carded fol­low­ing an al­ter­ca­tion with New York Red Bulls mid­fielder Sasha Kl­jes­tan, in the tun­nel at half­time of last Sun­day’s se­cond leg of their semi­fi­nal.

Kl­jes­tan told re­porters that Alti­dore shoved him into a wall. Alti­dore of­fered a dif­fer­ent take on Thurs­day, sim­i­lar to the ver­sion from TFC coach Greg Van­ney and team­mates: that Kl­jes­tan am­bushed Alti­dore in the tun­nel, stray­ing past the point where he should have veered off to the vis­i­tors’ locker room.

“He came up be­hind me, tried to grab or what­ever, and I just pushed him off me,” Alti­dore said. “That was it. He didn’t fall into a wall, none of that hap­pened, so I don’t know what he’s talk­ing about there.”

The Reds — who are sure to be with­out MVP can­di­date Se­bas­tian Giovinco in the opener, after he picked up a se­cond yel­low card on Sun­day — have for­mally ap­pealed ref­eree Chris Penso’s de­ci­sion, hop­ing video and wit­ness tes­ti­mony will ab­solve their striker.

The in­ci­dent in the tun­nel with Kl­jes­tan, a con­tin­u­a­tion of ten­sions on the field in the first half, ig­nited a tus­sle be­tween other mem­bers of both clubs.

“I walked right into the locker room, so I didn’t even see or know about the whole brawl thing un­til later on,” Alti­dore said. “I was not in­volved in any way. I de­fended my­self quickly and that was it. The video doesn’t lie and hope­fully the league is go­ing to do the right thing, which I’m sure they will.”

Alti­dore, who needed treat­ment dur­ing the half­time break, added that he didn’t know he’d been red­carded un­til he was about to take the field.

“I was shocked, just as shocked as (Van­ney) was,” he said. “It was what it was. We had to deal with it, and I

“I’ve played with Sasha. I know they aren’t ter­ri­ble guys.” TFC’S JOZY ALTI­DORE ON THE NEW YORK RED BULLS

thought the team dealt with it in­cred­i­bly well.”

His fate will be de­cided by an in­de­pen­dent panel made up of one rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the United States Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion, one from the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion and a former ref­eree.

Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s in-house dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee could also make the sus­pen­sion longer if it sees fit.

Van­ney said he didn’t know when a de­ci­sion on the ap­peal would be an­nounced, adding ef­forts to lo­cate more video and other ev­i­dence were on­go­ing.

“There are dif­fer­ent sto­ries as to what might have tran­spired in there, so I think the ob­jec­tive is to try and get as much clear in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Van­ney added that Alti­dore has prac­tised just as hard as al­ways, de­spite the lin­ger­ing un­cer­tainty and that the re­sult of the ap­peal won’t change TFC’s game plan sub­stan­tially.

“It won’t change a ton,” Van­ney said. “Ob­vi­ously we’re not go­ing to rein­vent our team whether Jozy’s in or out.”

Alti­dore re­it­er­ated more than once that he wasn’t wor­ried about the forthcoming de­ci­sion, con­fi­dent based on the video he’s seen of the in­ci­dent.

Hectic, emo­tional games like the one BMO Field hosted on Sun­day are the norm come play­off time, the 28-year-old Amer­i­can said. He thought the dust-up had been blown out of pro­por­tion and that in gen­eral ev­ery­one acted in a “pretty pro­fes­sional man­ner.”

“I’ve played for (Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch). I’ve played with Sasha. I know they aren’t ter­ri­ble guys,” Alti­dore said. “Some­times s--hap­pens, for lack of a better term.”

FRANK GUNN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The cards were fly­ing dur­ing Sun­day’s Eastern semi­fi­nal de­cider at BMO Field, where Jozy Alti­dore also saw red.

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