Major League Soccer

Javier Perez praises Jozy Altidore after first Toronto FC goal since July

Chris Smith
Altidore scored just his third goal of an injury-hit 2021 season on Saturday.
Altidore scored just his third goal of an injury-hit 2021 season on Saturday. / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC head coach Javier Perez has praised the work put in by Jozy Altidore to regain his fitness after the striker's first goal since July.

Having entered the match as a 66th-minute substitute, Altidore dispatched an impressive free-kick in the dying moments of the game to give TFC a 1-1 draw against Canadian Classique rivals, CF Montreal.

It's just the third goal Altidore , who got 15 in the regular season alone in the club's 2017 championship season, has scored in another injury-hit year and the first since July 17 when he put TFC ahead in an eventual 1-1 draw with Orlando City.

Speaking after Saturday's match, Perez expressed pride in the hard work his striker has put in to regain form and fitness.

"I think I mentioned already that every time I was even coming here to the stadium, seeing him in the training facility, working by himself, it's difficult for me because I know how emotional and how much he wants to succeed and to help the club," the coach told reporters.

"But at the same time, when I come here to the games and I see that he's working really hard, I think it was paying off for him. I think it was really a relief. It was a great relief to see that finally he can come, help the team, being part of the group. I think it paid off all the effort that he made."

Altidore himself admitted it was an 'added bonus' scoring against Montreal - the former USMNT striker has now hit the net 13 times against TFC's biggest rival, at least five more than any other opponent.

"It felt great to score again. Especially against Montreal, who is always an added bonus with the rivalry," the 31-year-old said.

"So it was great to see the people that came out tonight behind the goal, to see them out there even with the season we had, knowing obviously it's an important game, that was special. To have that moment with them and just talk with them a bit, and manage to come out with a result tonight, not many positives, but it was a positive."

TFC's MLS season is effectively over, but they still have a Canadian Championship semi-final clash with Pacific FC to look forward to at the start of November.

With that in mind, Perez has stressed the importance of Altidore building on his goal. The Spaniard backed his striker to rediscover the form that made him one of the most feared marksmen in MLS and North America just a few years ago.

"Now we have to keep building upon that. I think his quality is undeniable. His quality is right there, and I think he can be the player that he was before," Perez added.

"Again, I think it's been a really difficult year for him, being out, a lot of rhythm that has been cut out of his training or his games. When I first was in charge, I thought he was going to come back. Then he got the injury, and he's been out for a long time.

"So hopefully now, the team that it starts to look like a team, we can fight together for this last stretch of the season, and we can get a title and we can add up some points in the table."

Up next for TFC is a home clash with Philadelphia Union on Wednesday before they travel to Atlanta United, with both games serving as preparation for the Canadian Championship.