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Toronto FC Can't Allow Loss to Montreal Impact to Define Their Season

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If Toronto FC want 2015 to be defined as successful, they have to make fans forget their sixth-place finish in the regular season with playoff success.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in franchise history, the end of the regular season does not mean Toronto FC have played their last game of the year. However, there is little to celebrate about the way it concluded.

Yesterday's 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact was disappointing for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the team is better than this.

When Jozy Altidore scored the game's opening goal on a cross from Sebastian Giovinco it seemed like the match was going to be the most significant return on Toronto's FC January player investment yet.

For the first 45 minutes, Toronto FC were dominant against an Impact team who appeared to be a road team in their own building, and had little response for Toronto's passing and pressure.

When that response came, however, it was resounding. After TFC had been on Didier Drogba's heels all game, he used the back of them to score two spectacular goals. It was enough to make sure the sound of a newly installed Stade Saputo goal bell will be in the nightmares of Toronto supporters.

When they wake up they will find that their team is still far from home, with a return looking more and more improbable.

All of the sudden a team that was roaring into the playoffs got their back foot caught on the final hurdle and fell hard. What was a third place finish after halftime quickly dissolved into a sixth and final playoff spot.

It was exactly the kind of crazy scenario this "decision day" streak of brilliance from the league was designed to create. Unfortunately, Toronto FC won't have as positive memories of the day as those who took in its action at home.

Right now, that is what will define the season, that all the promise and flashes of brilliance they showed culminated in them finishing in a spot that would not have qualified them for the playoffs 19 out of 20 other MLS seasons.

The only way they change that is by picking themselves up after this embarrassing fall and making sure they are ready to go against on Thursday.

Because even if they screwed up what could have been a seminal moment for the club yesterday, they still have a chance to do something special this week.

Beating the Montreal Impact in their first ever playoff game wouldn't fully atone for all the sins this franchise has committed over the past nine years.

But it would sure come close: sports have been a passion of this town for some time now, but beating Montreal at just about anything is even more ingrained into the Toronto physique.

At the very least yesterday's game proved that Toronto's first foray into the Major League Soccer playoffs will not be without entertainment.

Yesteday's match checked of a lot of boxes on the derby day checklist as the two teams battled from start to finish, with evidence of their distain for one another at every turn.

Off the field it was no different, with Impact fans unveiling a tongue in cheek sign that welcomed the Toronto Argonauts to their new home at BMO Field.

This will only intensify on Thursday when a proud Toronto FC side have licked their wounds and return to the Saputo Stadium pitch looking for revenge.

This time they will have no choice but to give a full 90 minute performance, otherwise the bell will toll on what will be seen as a disappointing season.