Michael Bradley remembers the deafening sounds from the Toronto FC crowd. There was a time when it did not seem conceivable for BMO Field to host a soccer playoff game. That changed on October 27, 2016, when Toronto FC hosted the Philadelphia Union.
It was a street fight for a football match. Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio, and Jozy Altidore each scored a goal to lift Toronto to a 3-1 victory. And the crowd, combatting the swirling winds of Fall, were sporting their red and white apparel with pride. Clapping their “Skol Chant” and singing their victory songs with a fervent, contagious enthusiasm.
BMO Field has become one of the most booming atmospheres in the MLS. The celebrations after Toronto FC had secured its first MLS Championship in franchise history back in 2017 are evidence of the passion of Toronto fans.
Three years since the team’s inaugural postseason fixture, Toronto will hit the pitch to host D.C. United in over a week’s time in Round 1 of the playoffs.
A homecoming for Bradley, who might be in his final home playoff game for the Reds.
“This place comes alive in October and November, so what it means is that we get one night to set the playoff tone here,” said Bradley.
In 34 games played this season, Toronto finished eighth in goals scored (57), sixth in assists (57), and 12th in terms of shots on goal (165). But on the home field, the offensive numbers are much more inflated in Toronto’s favour.
>34 of Toronto’s 57 total goals were scored at BMO Field, compared to just 23 on the road. During those home games, Toronto only gave up 26 goals, meaning their total home goal differential was 8.
During Toronto FC’s unbeaten streak of ten games to conclude the season, the Reds generated 19 goals (seven at home), giving up 12 to their opposition (four at home), for a goal differential of 7.
Despite limited playoff experience for Toronto, the team has validated their enhanced level of play at home. The Reds have only lost two home playoff games as a franchise; the first being in the 2016 MLS Cup Final to Seattle in penalty kicks. The second occurred against the New York Red Bulls in the 2017 conference semifinals, where Toronto FC would subsequently win in penalty kicks on aggregate.
With a franchise, home goal differential in the playoffs of 9 (13 GF, 4 GA) Toronto head coach Greg Vanney is looking for a similar model of success against D.C. United at BMO Field.
“The best indicator of playoff form is the best 10 games of the year,” said Vanney. “I think we’re in a pretty good rhythm as a group.”
This successful stretch is far removed from the doldrums of underwhelming play in May and June. TFC was out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, winless in eight matches and desperately searching for an identity.
In July, Toronto FC only lost two matches. Their last loss of the regular season occurred against the New York Red Bulls at the beginning of August. From that moment on, the Reds displayed tremendous consistency and tenacity. They got back to a brand of soccer that Vanney was looking for all season long; dominant ball possession while creating open spaces for Altidore, Osorio, and Pouzelo to score.
After not making the playoffs last season, Toronto FC will look to lean on its veteran experience to make a deep run. With his status for the round 1 matchup unknown due to a quad injury, the Reds will certainly rely on Altidore for offensive production. His eight goals in 15 playoff appearances make Altidore a dangerous, clutch scoring threat for Toronto FC. Osorio should not be overlooked either for his prowess in the offensive zone, generating two goals during TFC’s 2016 MLS Playoffs campaign.
But there is no one embracing the postseason opportunity more than Michael Bradley. Bradley, 32, is most likely playing in his final season with Toronto FC due to his contract expiring. With one playoff goal in 12 playoff appearances for TFC, the Princeton, New Jersey native will look to ignite the Toronto soccer fans with his stellar play and veteran leadership.
When Toronto FC won the MLS Cup in 2017, they only had two losses in 15 games coming into the playoffs. Coming into the playoffs in 2019, the Reds are in a similar position, ending the season with two losses in 15 games.
No one wants to face Toronto FC in the playoffs. Couple their unbeaten streak with taking on a DC United squad, who has three wins in their last eight matches, it is the perfect “red” storm that is about to permeate across Toronto.
Toronto FC Playoff Main Photo:
OCTOBER 6– The passionate Toronto FC home crowd will get to cheer loud for the playoffs in two weeks.