Toronto FC stars Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley unfazed by fan abuse on the road
Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) brings down the ball as Chicago Fire defender Patrick Doody (22) and Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty (6) move in during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Friday, April 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 27, 2017 4:21PM EDT
Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore was wearing predominantly black, complete with black cap, as he met the media Friday.
It seemed fitting he was dressed the part of the villain given the rude reception he and captain Michael Bradley endured last week from the record crowd of 71,874 in Atlanta. The two U.S. internationals could be in for more of the same Monday when Toronto opens its MLS playoff campaign at the New York Red Bulls.
Being marquee men on the best team in Major League Soccer guarantees a rude reception on the road. But in Atlanta, Altidore and Bradley were clearly paying the price for the failed U.S. World Cup qualifying campaign.
They were booed every time they touched the ball as if they were former Atlanta players who had joined a hated rival.
Is the fan abuse the new normal for the two American stars?
"For the short-term maybe," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, noting that U.S. international Graham Zusi got more of the same from Houston fans in Sporting Kansas City's 1-0 loss Wednesday.
"They're adversary fans but they're also fans of the national team, and I think that's their way of trying to voice their opinion."
Vanney, a former U.S. international himself, thinks it will blow over but admits it makes for "nice motivation for our guys to compete and work hard and to prove that what happened is a lot more than about a couple of people."
Altidore and Bradley have both acknowledged that the World Cup failure has taken a personal toll. But they are unfazed by the peanut gallery.
In fact, Bradley smiled when the Atlanta crowd was mentioned.
"We walked out to see the field and I hadn't been on the field for two steps and I had a few nice things yelled at me," he said. "We went back in and Jozy and I were talking and I said 'We'll see what this looks like, but I have a feeling it's going to go this way.' Sure enough I was right."
Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco both scored as Toronto, coming back twice from deficits, tied Atlanta 2-2, denying the expansion team the win it needed to secure a first-round playoff bye. Forced to play a knockout-round game, Atlanta exited Thursday after losing a penalty shootout to Columbus.
Altidore pointedly cupped his ear after his goal quietened the Atlanta crowd. And when a fan hurled a cup of beer at him, Giovinco picked it up and took a sip.
"That's my guy," Altidore said happily.
Altidore chose to see the Atlanta crowd another way, saying diplomatically that playing in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was "a blessing" and "childhood dream."
As for Red Bull Arena, Altidore says the suburban stadium has a good atmosphere "but it's no BMO (Field)."
Altidore and Bradley both have New York/New Jersey roots, having started their careers with the MetroStars, who became the Red Bulls in 2006. Both were born in New Jersey -- Altidore in Livingston and Bradley in Princeton.
The two have 250 caps and 58 goals for the U.S. between them.