When Toronto FC kicked off their home opener today the skies over BMO Field were sunny and inviting. By the time the final whistle had sounded, they were dark and rainy. Such reflected the mood of the crowd, as yet another day billed as historic turned out to be downright disappointing.
Not that history has ever been kind to anything about Toronto FC. Nor have they been that kind to history as emphasized today by announcing club legend Dwayne De Rosario's retirement like some sort of afterthought at halftime while the stadium was half empty.
History may remember today's 2-1 loss against the Houston Dynamo, but more than likely it won't. It was forgettable, but the letdown felt throughout the club will likely last for a while.
This was an opportunity to make at least 30,000 people at least momentarily forget the club’s transgressions of the past. It was a missed opportunity, whether the club is willing to acknowledge it or not.
"I think we are in a position where we have to win fans back period with the way we play," said manager Greg Vanney after the match. "So I don’t think it’s about one game, I think our history as an organization lends to us that we have to prove [ourselves] over multiple games."
He has a point, and a win today hardly would have fixed all the issues surrounding this club, especially with those who have been around since day one. But not all games are created equal, and winning this one would have gone a long way towards the aforementioned goal of winning fans back.
Vanney did acknowledge, however, how frustrated he was that the club couldn’t make a better first impression in the newly renovated stadium.
"No excuses, at the end of the day we talked about this being our home and being proactive and being the aggressors," he explained. "We started in a little bit of a passive and reactive mode."
The first half was particularly disappointing, as Toronto spent the majority of it on their back foot. Giles Barnes in particular had a field day with the Toronto defense, as he has done throughout his time with the Houston Dynamo.
Behind them, Chris Konopka did the best he could to overcome the Dynamo attack, in fact it might have been the best goaltending performance the club has had all year. He even stopped a penalty, but there was nothing he could do about the rebound.
"At the end of the day we have a lot more home games," explained the Toronto keeper. "Seeing the crowd the way it was today, hopefully they got our back. Going forward it will be difficult for any team coming in here to play."
Konopka even came close to contributing offensively off of a corner kick, but his bouncing header was stopped by Tyler Deric. It would have been the equalizer, and an incredible way to do it.
"I think every goalie in his own mind has a dream about scoring a goal," he said with a chuckle. "That was my chance and it didn’t fall the way it was, but hopefully next time."
Sebastian Giovinco was sorely disappointed as well, wanting to make an impact in his first game ever playing in Toronto. He was good, but didn’t get nearly enough service.
Jozy Altidore also had a decent match, scoring Toronto’s only goal and threatening on others. He and Jonathan Osorio were the most positive players for the club on the day.
There was one designated player, however, that didn’t really pull his weight. Michael Bradley was bitterly disappointing in both halves. His lowpoint of the game came when he gave up a needless penalty that resulted in the opening Houston goal.
While Giovinco will get all the press and praise, Bradley is truly the central cog of this team. When he has shifted out of place it is evident. Houston won the battle in the middle today, and while that wasn’t exclusively Bradley’s fault he did share a good portion of the blame.
Toronto FC introduced its team onto the field today with the song coming home, which has the refrain "let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday". Unfortunately today it did quite the opposite. It will take a while to forget the sting of this loss, even if the loss itself will be forgotten.