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Why Jozy Altidore Joining MLS Could Help His Career

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2015

Jan 16, 2015; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore poses with a Toronto FC scarf at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Jozy Altidore made the best possible decision for his career when he exited English Premier League side Sunderland on January 16. 

There is no doubt the United States international needed to leave Wearside in order to get playing time, but there were some questions about his landing spot. 

Jan 16, 2015; Toronto, ON, Canada;  Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore is presented with his Toronto FC team jersey by club general manager Tim Bezbatchenko (left) and head coach Greg Vanney (right) during a media conference at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory
USA TODAY Sports

By moving to Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, Altidore put a ton of pressure on himself to succeed, but that is exactly what the player needs to further his career. 

At 25 years old, Altidore still has plenty of time to develop into one of the best forwards produced by the United States. But few are willing to put him in the discussion based on his time at Sunderland and his spotty form at the international level of late. 

With the guarantee of first-team action in front of him in 2015, Altidore is expected to take the league he once played in by storm. 

In three seasons with the New York Red Bulls, Altidore scored 15 goals in 37 appearances, which is a respectable number for a young player coming through the ranks at a club. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 18:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the New York Red Bulls celebrates after scoring his teams fourth goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Giants Stadium on August 18, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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In his return to North America, Altidore is expected to score close to 15 goals to be considered a success with the new-look Reds. 

Altidore won't be the only big name under scrutiny if Toronto fails to produce results right away in the weakened Eastern Conference. The American forward will be joined by Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou in a star-studded lineup. 

If he channels the pressure in the right manner, Altidore could be the leader of one of the deadliest attacks in all of MLS. 

While they may not match the Seattle Sounders or LA Galaxy in terms of attacking capability in their first year as a unit, the Toronto attack has the potential to prey on some weak opposing defenses. 

Entering the 2015 campaign, only three teams can be seen as locks to make the playoffs. One of the reasons why the New England Revolution, Columbus Crew and D.C. United will be labeled as such is their ability to defend.

That leaves matches against six other Eastern Conference teams in which Altidore will be able to shred apart an average defense if he is in form. Even when he faces the powers of the conference, the 25-year-old will have a few advantages against them. 

Two of three clubs feature players who spent long stretches of time with the United States men's national team, while there is plenty of film on the other emerging defensive duo in D.C.

Thanks to training against Columbus' Michael Parkhurst and New England's Jermaine Jones in the past, Altidore should have some mental notes on the strengths and weaknesses of both players. The familiarity with their respective games could turn into a key intangible in big matches. 

Jun 28, 2014; Sao Paulo, BRAZIL; USA forward Jozy Altidore (right) laughs with midfielder Jermaine Jones during team training at Sao Paulo FC. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

As for the D.C. duo of Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell, there are plenty of scouting reports from the 2014 season on what the tendencies of both players are. If Altidore takes advantage of the cerebral aspect of the game, he will find holes in the tight defensive pairing at some point during a 90-minute match. 

But the key for Altidore, as it is for any forward, will be his confidence. If Altidore can regain that during his first few months in Toronto, he has the chance to turn into a scoring machine for both club and country. 

As the top talent in the USMNT forward pool, Altidore must be able to be a nuisance up top in whatever formation manager Jurgen Klinsmann opts to throw out on the pitch. 

On countless occasions throughout the last 12 months, Altidore has been criticized for disappearing during long stretches of the match. While at his best, he brings tremendous hold-up play that other attackers can benefit from. But at his worst, Altidore makes the USMNT attack ineffective at best. 

One key factor about his move to Toronto that no one should look past is the playing time he will earn alongside Michael Bradley. If the American pair can form a strong bond on the pitch, the rewards will be reaped by Toronto and the USMNT. 

Jun 7, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; United States forward Jozy Altidore (17) is congratulated by midfielder Michael Bradley (4) after he scored a goal during the second half against the Nigeria at EverBank Field. United States defeated Nigeria 2-1. Mandat
USA TODAY Sports

At the club level last season, Bradley was forced to do more work than usual due to the lack of a consistent attacker up top. With Altidore in the fold, Bradley should be able to stay further back in the midfield, which will also help solidify the Toronto defense.

On the international scene, the dynamic between Bradley and Altidore will only make the USMNT's play in the middle of the pitch better. In the 3-2 loss to Chile, the Americans failed to set the tone in the middle of the park because of the play of Bradley and Altidore.

In six months' time, we may not have the same concerns about the players if they can forge a successful partnership, which should result in Altidore recording a double-digit goal total at the club level.

Only time will tell if Altidore can become a massive success in Toronto, but all the signs are pointing toward the American forward having a career year in 2015. 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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