Altidore good to go for Toronto FC but Giovinco not quite ready to return | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Altidore good to go for Toronto FC but Giovinco not quite ready to return

Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore, left, is tackled by San Jose Earthquakes' Kofi Sarkodie during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, September 9, 2017. Jozy Altidore is good to go but fellow striker Sebastian Giovinco will sit out Toronto FC's game Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker
September 29, 2017 - 12:35 PM

TORONTO - A wet, miserable training session had most Toronto FC players running for cover as soon as it ended Friday.

But not striker Jozy Altidore. The U.S. international, healthy again after missing the last three games with a hamstring issue, stayed out for some spirited target practice with teammates Armando Cooper and Raheem Edwards.

While Altidore is good to go for Saturday's soldout contest against the visiting New York Red Bulls, fellow striker Sebastian Giovinco will sit out a fourth straight game. Coach Greg Vanney says the Italian is close but not quite back from his quadricep strain.

"We still have some steps that we want to make with him before we put him out there, because there's still some risk associated with him playing in a match situation," said Vanney.

Giovinco trained with the team Friday but was on a "restriction that he couldn't score," meaning that he avoided taking shots. That's not easy for the Italian, who ranks second in the league with 116 shots despite missing eight games through injury.

With an international bye week approaching, Toronto is playing it safe with the Atomic Ant ahead of the playoffs.

League-leading Toronto (18-5-8) is coming off back-to-back losses — to Montreal and New England — for the first time this season. Missing its multimillion-dollar strike force has not helped.

A win and TFC can clinch the Supporters' Shield, which goes to the MLS team with the best regular-season record. A New York City FC loss Saturday to Chicago would also do the trick for Toronto.

Captain Michael Bradley wants to give the home fans something to celebrate.

"We want to step on the field in our stadium, in front of our fans, and be ready to win a big game, win the Supporters' Shield and really move into this last part of the season in a strong way," he said. "And make sure that we're ready for all the big games that are coming."

TFC can also clinch the Supporters' Shield with a tie Saturday, providing NYCFC ties or loses to Chicago on Saturday and Atlanta United ties or loses to New England on Wednesday.

The Shield has been a team goal all season — it comes with a US$130,000 bonus that goes into the team pool — but Bradley and his teammates know it means nothing unless the MLS Cup follows.

"It's about understanding that we've put ourselves in a really good position. But we've not done anything yet," said Bradley. "We've not come all this way, we've not worked as hard as we have to start celebrating things before they've happened."

The Red Bulls (12-11-7) occupy the sixth and last playoff spot in the East, four points ahead of Montreal and four behind Columbus. They are 4-9-2 away from home this season but have not won at BMO Field since 2013.

New York is winless in seven games (0-2-5) since a victory Aug. 12 over visiting Orlando. It's the Red Bulls' longest run without a win since an eight-game run stretch during the 2011 season.

Toronto's twin losses followed a club-record 11-game undefeated streak, a club-record-tying six-game win streak and a run of seven consecutive games where TFC scored three goals or more. Toronto also saw its season-long home undefeated streak snapped.

Altidore, who has 13 goals and five assists, will be a welcome addition Saturday. A striker who combines raw power with a deft touch, he is a handful for defenders.

Toronto is 5-3-5 all-time against the Red Bulls at BMO Field.

The teams tied 1-1 May 19 at Red Bull Arena, a result that snapped TFC's club-record six-game win streak. Toronto had its chances that day — Altidore was stopped on an 81st-minute penalty kick and a Tosaint Ricketts 88th-minute goal was waved off for offside.

After Saturday, Toronto wraps up the regular season at home to Montreal and away to Atlanta.

Vanney says there have been no discussion within the team about possible anthem protests.

"Which means I don't think it's on anyone's mind or priority list this weekend ... I think it would be an individual choice and I haven't heard from anyone," he said.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
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