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Nine Years Later, Wednesday Night Was Worth the Wait for Toronto FC Supporters

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I've been covering this team for three years, but Wednesday reminded me why I fell in love with this team in the first place.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

I fell in love with Toronto FC before I ever fell in love with the sport of soccer. There was something about having a Canadian team, a local team, "our team" that I've always connected with.

Like any good Canadian boy, growing up I thought soccer was boring and soft: a sport that was only worth supporting every four years when I found a random nation with which I had no previous connection to support.

Then on April 25, 2007, probably trying to find a hockey game, I tuned into to Toronto FC versus Kansas City Wizards on CBC. It wasn't an overtly interesting game, but seeing how passionate everyone at the stadium was I couldn't look away.

I never saw Danny Dichio's famous 24th minute goal, in fact I'm not sure I've ever seen video of it since. That doesn't matter, I remember the moment exactly how I'd like to: a still image of thousands of seat cushions flying through the sky of Toronto.

Because, for me, what truly makes this club so special has nothing to do with what is happening on the field. It is the fans who have stuck around despite all the heartbreak, and have been the beating heart of this club.

Since day one it has been the atmosphere at Toronto FC games that has drawn people to the stadium rather than the product on the field. People went because they wanted to chant, throw streamers at opposing players, and hold their Toronto FC scarves up high.

For conservative Canadian sports fans, this was something completely different than they had ever seen before. There were drums, there were organized chants that weren't just "go insert team here go" and some of the fans even stood for the entire game.

There was also the thunderous sound of feet being stomped on the metal sound, the the first sound I remember hearing at BMO Field when I entered the grounds for the first time on October 4, 2007.

The match was one of only six Toronto FC victories that year, 2-1 over the New York Red Bulls, but I don't remember the game, I remember the stands.

As the years went on my dad and I would attend a few games a year and they were always a lot of fun, but as the team got worse and my life got busier, I started to pay less and less attention.

When I got the opportunity to cover the team for Waking the Red in 2013 I made the decision to hang up my scarf as a supporter of the club. I knew I could never be fully objective when it came to TFC, but thought I would cover them better if I was removed.

I traded in my seat in the stands for one in the press box, removed from the passion of the crowd. There I observed the team for the past two seasons, cheering mostly for an interesting storyline to write about, win or loss it didn't really matter.

But there was something special about Wednesday, something that the fan in me I thought I'd grown out of couldn't resist enjoying.

Like the rest of Toronto, my focus was hardly on the pitch at BMO field when their match against the New York Red Bulls kicked off, it was on the TV screen to my left showing the Blue Jays game.

In this regard it wasn't a good night for the old mantra of "not cheering in the press box". When Jose Bautista hit his now immortalized home run, the press box went wild, so much so that the supporters directly in front of us took notice and began a "Lets go Blue Jays" chant.

That was the backdrop against which this entire night was set for me, as it was for most of Toronto: the giddy disbelief that the Blue Jays had pulled it off in such spectacular fashion. There was the feeling that some kind of curse had been lifted.

When I saw Sebastian Giovinco standing next to the Toronto bench ready to come into the match I chuckled to myself. ‘What the heck is Greg Vanney doing risking his star player in a game they are already winning, and just need a draw in the to clinch the playoff,' I thought.

Minutes later, I saw a New York defender fall, and Giovinco streak past him with the ball. He looked like he was going to strike it from outside the box, as he has so many times, but he faked left with an unbelievably quick cut. At that point I was already standing.

When the ball went into the back of the net, for just a minute I was that young boy again, the one who had fallen in love with this team all those years ago. Looking around the press box, I could tell many of usually stone-cold journalists who cover this team were going through the same thing.

After the final whistle blew I took a couple minutes to watch the south stands, the fans who had been there game in and game out for the entirety of the nine years. They were the reason I was at that match at all, and seeing them finally rewarded was something special.

I don't think I'll ever be able to be a fan of this team the way they are again, the chanting, the singing and the unconditional love for the deeply flawed franchise.

But the moment Giovinco scored the goal to all but confirm Toronto's first ever playoff spot, all the regret, the frustration and the heartbreak that I had felt while watching and covering this team was suddenly worth it.