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Notes from the Stands – Toronto FC v Chicago Fire

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Waking the Red's forum for sharing glimpse from the match day experience after another night at BMO Field.

Martin Bazyl

The first match back at BMO Field in nearly a month was a raucous occasion – the fans were in fine spirits, the weather was an exceptional specimen of late summer, and, well, who does not love an evening at the Ex.

The play on the pitch may have left much to be desired – yet another quintessential example of the TFC theme: play well, fail to establish a cushion only for it to come crashing down with a momentary breakdown (throw in a few goals from a former player or two and that is pretty much the history of Toronto’s existence) – but the on-field action is only ever half the story.

The stands are where the game finds its character, a reciprocal relationship where one feeds off the other, each finding their energy fueled by the opposite. A good game leads to a good crowd; a good crowd can make a dire game better.

That said, there is a danger that excess in the stands can inspire overconfidence on the pitch – see Jonathan Osorio’s post-crowd-hyping-over-hit corner kick as the perfect example thereof.

Hubris

It should be clearly stated that the hardcore of the TFC fan-base are warriors – perhaps ‘troopers’ is more apt, as it contains the element of suffering that the South End has endured, woe these seven years.

But, and there is a but, much like an alert ball-boy, fans best serve their team by being fully aware of the circumstances and responding appropriately.

Take the ‘This is our House’ chat which has become a hallmark for the team. Well, when used properly, such as it was in Montreal with TFC closing out a worry-free 0-2 victory, it is a devastating proclamation of the visiting team taking ownership of the opponent’s ground through their dominance. At home, it is a mere statement of fact – though, when combined with a particularly forceful display, it can reinforce how insignificant the opponent’s challenge may have been on the night or to remind a particularly belligerent foe of their place.

When used otherwise, it rings somewhat hollow. And for a team that has struggled for most of its existence like TFC, it is little more than an impotent mantra.

Similarly, the singing of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, while an excellent and lively tune, carries with it an element of danger when trotted out prematurely. While good after one goal, it opens the possibility of the opponent responding with, well, enough, the sort of which one can get too much of – say by scoring in response or taking the lead in short order. Nobody wants that.

But no stand-move is more rife with downfall than the Poznan, as the act of turning one’s back to the play belies an attitude of ‘this is sorted, no need to watch what comes next’. And TFC fans know well that they are in no position to take any win, any point, any lead, or any play for granted.

Toronto was all over Chicago for much of the first hour – and should have scored the three or more goals that would have warranted, or at least, allowed such a boastful attitude to permeate the stands. Instead, the casual in-attention infected play and Robert Earnshaw popped up behind Jackson for Chicago’s first equalizer shortly after the dance echoed through the stands.

ALS Icebucket Challenge

Perhaps excusing the premature display of celebration was that many of those same fans were simply trying to keep warm after responding to Tim Leiweke’s Icebucket Challenge – submitted to on Wednesday, with a little assist from Jermain Defoe, Nazem Kadri, and Amir Johnson:


Leiweke would call out the Red Patch Boys, and they would respond with an epic multi-person dousing at half-time – as well as a generous donation.

A hearty well-done to all involved – especially well-intentioned was the calling out of the visiting Chicago fans to repeat the feat at their next home match.

It was a nice coda to Leiweke’s relationship with the fans, which for good or ill, has been admirable in its engagement – though its true legacy is yet to materialize.

The Ex

Last, but certainly not least, it was Canadian National Exhibition time down at the CNE Grounds and who does not love an evening spent strolling the midway, munching on the various delicacies, and winning prizes to be sold at next summer’s lawn-sale.

Please share your experiences below – What bizarre food did you try? Any rides worth the effort? Win anything decent? See anything ridiculous? 

I saw the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi at the TFC game and settled for the standard Schnitzel from the back of the Food Building - an annual tradition.

A final word for the official, who took charge of his first MLS match and barely put a foot wrong; yes, not sure Defoe was offside there, and that foul on Justin Morrow was a little comical, but if those are the worst decisions of the night, they can be lived with. TFC has railed against poor officiating often this season, and it is only just that when the arbiter does well he be praised.

One should be hard-pressed to think of a better handled first half at BMO Field this season – letting play flow with advantages, giving clear warnings before pulling out the yellow card, and responding with a card when players did not heed the warning (looking at you Alex). The match got a little more difficult in the second half and the official wilted a touch under the pressure – though handling both those minor flares ups in the final minutes with words rather than cards was the sign of a very good referee in the making.

But all told, it was a very solid performance; would gladly have him at BMO Field again.