U.S. Soccer has opted to hold veteran striker Jozy Altidore out of Sunday's friendly with Trinidad and Tobago, citing transfer interest in the Toronto FC star.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters Altidore had recovered from a "very very minor strain" and was in full training Saturday. But he said with the transfer deadline looming and the game so close, "it's a chance we didn't want to take with Jozy, so he will not be participating."
Berhalter said Altidore was one of several players who had been drawing attention.
"Throughout the last three weeks you wouldn't believe the amount of calls I've been getting from clubs about different players," Berhalter said. "You guys are part of that speculation. But you see it as well and you hear it.
"We've gotten calls about a ton of players. Jozy's another focus of transfer speculation. I don't think it's my place to go into details of that. I think that's a place for his club and Jozy. But there have been a number of clubs interested in Jozy as well as other players in camp."
Altidore seemed to push back on the transfer speculation in a social media post Saturday evening.
"Don’t believe everything you read. The devil is working overtime," he tweeted.
The 31-year-old Altidore has spent the last six seasons with Toronto, scoring 58 goals and adding 20 assists in 123 regular-season MLS games.
With 115 caps for his country, he is the most senior player in camp with the US.
Altidore signed a three-year contract extension with Toronto in February 2019
"This is my home, this is where I want to be and this is where I want to keep building," Altidore said at the time.
He made US$6.3 million in 2019 according to the MLS Players Association.
The burly forward has had his issues with the club, however.
In January 2020, he criticized it over its handling of captain Michael Bradley's ankle injury.
In April 2019, he accused Toronto president Bill Manning of putting his ego ahead of player welfare by banning a valued trainer because of his association of former TFC striker Sebastian Giovinco.
A deal was soon struck to bring the trainer back into the fold and Altidore apologized.
Altidore's return to the team last season was delayed.
He'd spent much of the lockdown at his Florida home and had to go through quarantine upon coming north of the border.
Away from the field he has a young son and is engaged to U.S. tennis star Sloane Stephens.
After NBA and other teams elected not to play in late August last year in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Altidore sat out TFC's game in Montreal for "personal reasons," according to then-Toronto coach Greg Vanney.
Toronto also has a powerful striker looking to play more minutes in 21-year-old Ayo Akinola.
In other U.S. team news, defender Aaron Long and winger Paul Arriola could be loaned to European soccer clubs from MLS after Sunday's game in Orlando.
Long’s agent was discussing a loan from the New York Red Bulls to English champion Liverpool, which is in fourth place and needs a central defender because of injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Arriola could be loaned from D.C. United to Swansea of England's second-tier Championship.
He would join Jordan Morris, who was loaned from Seattle on Jan. 21 and made his debut for the Swans on Saturday as an 83rd-minute substitute in a 3-1 win at Rotherham.
England’s January transfer deadline is 6 p.m. ET Monday.
Players remaining in MLS may not have matches this spring.
The league is threatening its players’ association with a lockout unless an agreement on changes to the collective bargaining agreement is reached by Feb. 4.
Training camps are scheduled to open Feb. 22 and the season is to start April 3.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2021.
The Canadian Press