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Toronto FC Ready to Make BMO Field a Fortress Again

BMO Field used to be the cream of Major League Soccer's 2007 crop. Now, the club is hoping a new renovation can once again make it a premier North American soccer venue.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

As far as strongholds go, BMO Field has been neither heavily protected nor impenetrable since it first opened in 2007. Since then, it has been "conquered" 40 times in the last eight years, and hasn't hosting a teaam with a winning record since 2009.

"I remember BMO Field being called a fortress," said former Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei after he had left the club. "Back then it was a tough place for teams to come in and play against Toronto. Somewhere along the way some of that got lost."

The truth is, those who have guarded the fortress have consistently been unable to defend it. The club has tried changing those guards time and time again, nothing has changed.

So this year, besides the annual changing of faces in the locker room, Toronto FC made some new fortifications to their fortress as well.

Today, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment officially unveiled their latest project: phase one of renovation's to the home of their Major League Soccer club.

Their message was this: the BMO Field renovations are for more than just economics, they will make the venue more intimidating for opposing teams as well.

Walking out of Toronto's lavish new tunnel one certainly gets that sentiment right away. Gone is the welcoming view of the Toronto skyline that was iconic to BMO Field. Instead, there are thousands of red seats on the east end: constructing what has aptly been described as "the red wall".

"When you walk outside you see the addition on the far side, for me pictures don't do it justice," said Michael Bradley of the east side stands. "It's steeper than it looks like in pictures. I think it will make for a great atmosphere."

Bradley was grinning ear to ear throughout an interview today, done not long after he had finished training on the facelifted field for the first time. But he quickly turned to business, outlining the importance of creating the establishing the revamped stadium's reputation early.

"We have to use the energy and enthusiasm and really push things and get on top of the other team," he said of what Toronto's home mentality has to be going forward. "If we can [make] this a place where every team that comes through here leaves with a feeling like they never want to come back, then I think that will go a long way."

Toronto FC's coach Greg Vanney believes the renovations have already returned the stadium's fortress status as a result of the ascetics, and what is sure will be an even louder atmosphere. It's up to the team to keep it that way.

"If we do our job and do it right it will stay a fortress game after game," he explained.

But Vanney knows if they want to do a better job of defending their home, they have to be smart about it. That starts with Sunday's game against the Houston Dynamo, where they can't let the stage get the better of them.

"The game doesn't have to be won in the first 5 minutes," he said of the temptation to be overtly energetic out of the gate. "We have to make sure we play the full length of the game."

He also underlines the importance of leaving a good first impression, as Toronto FC understand how important it is for making the fans start to believe again.

After all, if anything has changed with this club it can't be built with brick and morder. The foundation of the club has to be built on renewed trust, entertainment value and, ultimately, success.

"At the end of the day it's the people and the players that make the stadium," explains Michael Bradley, a confident smile still on his face. "You can have this amazing stadium but if there's no atmosphere, no energy than it's a waste of time."