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U.S. striker Jozy Altidore says the past two years have been hardest of his life

Jozy Altidore says the past two years "have been the hardest couple of years of my life" as he dealt with injuries and a move back to Major League Soccer on top of personal issues, he told ESPN FC.

The United States striker suffered a hamstring injury just 23 minutes into the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, and completed a fruitless spell in England's Premier League with Sunderland before signing with Toronto FC in January.

Since then, Altidore's career has seen ups and downs as he's scored 12 goals in 24 MLS games, but a pair of red cards -- one each for club and country -- hinted at a level of frustration.

He also suffered another hamstring injury this year and was sent home from the Gold Cup after the group stage when he showed a lack of fitness in two poor performances against Honduras and Haiti.

Jozy Altidore's injury robs the U.S. of their best option up front, a legitimate cause for concern.
Jozy Altidore's World Cup ended after just 23 minutes after he picked up a hamstring injury.

And the 25-year-old told ESPN FC that he's faced challenges on and off the pitch in recent months.

"To be honest, the past two years, on the field and off the field, have been the hardest couple of years of my life," Altidore said. "I've had to grow a lot off the field as a man, as a person, and on the field. Obviously I've had injuries that derailed me as well.

"The past two years haven't been easy for me, but it's made me a better person, and I've gotten a lot of amazing rewards from these past two years as well. You take the good with the bad."

Asked what off-field issues had troubled him, Altidore said, "Just personal issues, and when things aren't right there, it makes it tough to go to work. I've been able to hopefully correct all those things and now get back to focusing on soccer.

"For a little bit of time, it wasn't at the forefront of my focus, which isn't fair to the club I was at the time and also myself as a professional. I'm just happy now to get a fresh start and get back to that."

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