Toronto FC ended the month of March with four points from four league games which is a whole four points more than they had at this stage last season (and for a long while after that). The point total should leave fans feeling happy considering they managed to take points off of the reigning MLS champions as well as the reigning Eastern Conference Champions and US Open Cup winner while playing tough against two Canadian rivals who are focused on making the playoffs this season.
Not many would have expected TFC to come away with a win over Sporting Kansas City or a draw against the L.A. Galaxy considering how poor the team was last season and how much of the roster was being built at the last minute but they got the job done in a very tough March schedule.
Oddly though, things do not really get a whole lot easier for TFC in April as they face more of the league's strongest sides and the club that has been arguably the biggest surprise of 2013 so far. With four MLS games on the schedule as well as the kick off of the Canadian Championships it will be a slightly busier month for TFC.
April will be crucial for TFC if they do have any intentions of hanging around with the contenders this season due to the fact that of their four league games three of them are set to take place at BMO Field and the club will need to pick up points at home if they want to keep pace.
The month opens with a date against FC Dallas this weekend which should be an interesting matchup. Dallas has surprised many around the league with their hot start and find themselves sitting on top of the West with 12 points from their first 5 matches. They have shown good balance scoring 8 goals and only allowing 5 but the glimmer of hope for TFC is that they have not been as impressive on the road.
Dallas were handed a 3-1 defeat against Chivas USA in their first road game of the season before following that up with a not quite convincing 1-0 win over the New England Revolution last weekend. Toronto will have their hands full against this Dallas team and will be hard pressed to break them down.
April continues with an away day to PPL Park to take on the Philadelphia Union on the 13th. The Union are ahead of Toronto in the Eastern Conference having collected six points from their first four matches. They have wins over two poor sides in the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution along with defeats to Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls.
The Union are a hard team to get a read on but seem to be shaping up to be the kind of team that will be in the mix for the final few playoff positions come the end of the season despite lacking the quality to really compete with the best sides in the East. PPL Park is a tricky venue for TFC to go into and get points but the inconsistency of the Union might just open the door for them to steal something.
TFC then host the Houston Dynamo on the 20th in what will be a tough match. The Dynamo have been a constant near the top of the league in recent years and currently sit second in the East having collected 9 points from their first 4 games. They managed that record while also being involved in the CONCACAF Champions League where they were knocked out at the Quarterfinal stage by Santos Laguna.
The last time Houston came to BMO Field they came away with a 2-0 win and will surely be looking for more of the same this season. They are once again a team with a strong defense that concedes very few goals but this year they have already shown the ability to find the back of the net with some regularity which makes them even tougher to beat.
Toronto's MLS schedule for the month wraps up against the New York Red Bulls on the 27th as the energy drinks come to BMO. The Red Bulls are proving that no matter who plays for them or who is the coach they are still the Red Bulls and can leave you scratching your head just as often as they can show their quality.
They have only managed one win from their first five matches of the season but do have a total of five points despite the best efforts of Roy Miller. They got their first win of the season to wrap up March by beating the Union 2-1 which could set the Red Bulls off on a roll but the good news for TFC is that they are conceding a fair few goals and have looked poor on the road so far picking up just one point from three matches.
Along with the four MLS matches TFC have the start of the Voyageurs Cup to deal with. They host the Montreal Impact on April 24th for the first leg of the 2013 semifinal. Last year Toronto knocked Montreal out at the same stage but this year's Impact squad is quite different looking and should provide a much stiffer test. Toronto did play them tough in the 2-1 defeat at Olympic Stadium last month but will have to be even better if they have hopes of defending their Canadian Championship title once again.
If March was a tough month in terms of the schedule April is slightly easier for Toronto FC. They do still face a number of tough teams but having so many games at home should help them to come away with at least a few points. There are a few winnable games in the bunch so there is no reason that TFC could not improve on their four points from March is they continue putting in solid performances.
What would TFC have to do for April to be considered a success?