Outlook appeals to Altidore
TFC striker confident tunnel fight video will scrap suspension
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.”
The cards were flying during Sunday’s Eastern semifinal decider at BMO Field, where Jozy Altidore also saw red.