TORONTO – It appears Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore will do his talking on the field Saturday in the MLS Cup final.
The U.S. international certainly had little to say Thursday at a news conference.
Asked how his sore ankle was, Altidore replied: “Yeah, I’ll play. It’s good.”
When another reporter pressed him for details, Altidore said: “It doesn’t matter.”
Silence followed. “Next question,” offered the moderator.
Another reporter asked Altidore what it felt like to watch Seattle celebrate last year’s win at BMO Field and whether that feeling had lingered. The answer to the first half of the question seemed pretty obvious but it elicited one of his longer responses.
“It was not great, so it’s good that we have a chance to hopefully reverse that feeling on Saturday,” Altidore said.
Altidore does not like talking about himself at the best of times. Putting him on a podium in front of a gaggle of media was like sending a tailor to a nudist colony. Who thought that was a good idea?
Perhaps it was no coincidence that captain Michael Bradley and coach Greg Vanney, who shared the podium with Altidore, repeatedly referred to the championship rematch with Seattle as being “tomorrow” instead of Saturday.
The Cup final comes 34 days and four games after Toronto kicked off its post-season run Nov. 5. In the same time period in May, Toronto played nine games.
One senses Toronto is talked out. It has waited a year to get back to the final, laying waste to the opposition during a record-breaking regular season. The playoffs have been more of a grind but Toronto, one kick from winning the championship in 2016, is back where it wants to be.
Redemption is just around the corner. Like Altidore, TFC is done with the small talk.
Still, Bradley says he is not fuelled by revenge.
“It’s Seattle again. I think we’re excited it’s Seattle, again,” he said. “But for me, the way I look at things, this is about our group of guys, our club, this city, the road that we have all taken to get here, what it meant after the disappointment and heartbreak of last year, to have to live each and every day this year knowing that in the back of our minds this was all we wanted to give ourselves another crack.
“In my mind this is about us, this is about stepping on the field Saturday and going for it.”
The weather continues to be a topic of conversation, although not one that is sending anyone to the phone yelling “Get me rewrite.”
“It’s going to be cold,” Bradley said with a slight smile. “It’s Toronto, right. It’s Toronto in December. Nobody thought any different.”
Bradley said the team has not spent much time thinking about it because “ultimately it’s one of those things that gets filed away under things we have no control over.”
Still, there were audible gasps from a few Toronto players as they emerged for their morning practice in a bone-chilling wind. “Oh my God,” was one player’s response. Another looked like he wanted to turn right around and go back inside.
The players made the most of it, with guffaws of laughter accompanying some form of relay race that was part of their warmup. Altidore threw his body around at will, looking no worse for wear despite the rolled ankle suffered in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final against Columbus.
Environment Canada calls for a high of zero and “periods of snow.” With underground heating, the snow should not be a problem, but the cold takes its toll after a while.
Temperature on the field at game time for last year’s championship game at BMO Field was -2, the second-coldest temperature reading for an MLS Cup final, according to the league. The temperature at the 2013 final in Kansas City hovered around -6 at kickoff, making it the coldest match since 2003 when the league first started recording game-time temperatures.
“In the end you just hope that the game isn’t affected by the temperature,” said Bradley. “I think we all felt like at the end last year it was bitter, it was bitter and dry and it made for a difficult night in a lot of ways.”
If the forecast holds and Saturday is closer to zero, and snow melting on a heated field keeps the field slick, “I think conditions actually set up for a good game,” Bradley said.
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