The CN Tower. Lake Ontario. The
Skydome Rogers Centre. Inflated housing prices. TIFF. Crumbling elevated expressways. A professional sports team picking up their performance in the second half of the season and cruising into the playoffs.
All but one of these things typically characterize the thriving metropolis of Toronto, Ontario. You can call it a curse, the persistent inability to handle pressure, poor management, or plain and simple bad luck; the fact is, Toronto sports franchises have become infamous for crumbling in the latter half of seasons, disappointing throngs of fans and supporters time and again. Unfortunately, Toronto FC is not exempt from this devastating pattern.
With the MLS all-star break having come and gone, it's of crucial importance that we look back at Toronto FC's post all-star game performances from years past to prevent history from repeating itself.
The Reds' all-time record prior to the all-star break (excluding this year) reads as follows: 43 wins, 64 losses, and 44 draws, good enough for 1.15 points per game. Unimpressive, but also unsurprising. Toronto's post all-star break record looks even more grim: a meagre 19 wins, 56 losses and 30 ties, totalling 0.83 points per game.
Five out of Toronto FC's seven seasons have seen the team's points per game drop after the all-star break. This was never more glaring than the team's horrific 2012 season, when Toronto finally seemed to be picking up their game as they collected three consecutive wins leading up to the break (to raise their record to a still relatively pathetic 5-11-4). Those would be the team's last three victories of the season, as they went on to lose ten and draw four of their last 14 games, unable to record a single win after the July 25th MLS All-star game.
In 2007, the franchise's very first season, Toronto FC experienced a similar phenomenon. Going into the all-star festivities the Reds had accumulated 5 wins, 7 losses, and 4 draws (almost respectable for an expansion franchise)- only to turn that into one lonely victory over the remaining 14 matches of the season (1-10-3) as the team went into a free-fall and finished the year at the bottom of the table.
The argument can be made that this all means nothing to this year's version of TFC. With so much turnover year after year, and a squad that has hopefully rid itself of "boys" only to stock up on "men" for the 2015 campaign, there is nothing to suggest that Toronto FC will experience their usual collapse in the later months of the season (beside... perhaps... injuries to DPs and their loss in Foxboro yesterday). After all, maybe 2015 will be more like the seemingly anomalous 2011 season, when Toronto improved from 0.78 points per game before the break to 1.36 points per game after the all-star contest.
The fact remains, however, that Toronto FC has never, in franchise history, won more than 3 matches after the all-star break- an alarming club statistic. The team's record prior to this weekend, 8-7-4, was also eerily similar to TFC's record leading into last year's all-star contest, 8-7-5. And we all remember how last season ended for the Reds.
It's safe to say most TFC fans and supporters have been satisfied with the club's record- I didn't say performances, but actual record- leading up to this year's festivities in Colorado. In fact, the 1.47 points per game has been the highest the team has ever achieved in the first ‘half' of a season. With all three of the team's designated players currently facing fitness concerns, and Jozy Altidore's pending suspension, head coach Greg Vanney's job has become all the more difficult leading into a very busy stretch of the season for the Reds. But with a home game-heavy schedule ahead of Toronto, collecting that ever-elusive fourth post all-star break win should not be the monumental task it has historically proven to be for Vanney, Bradley and company.
Can Toronto FC shake the ‘second half of the season' curse that seems to plague the city's professional sports teams? Will their mental fortitude and overall Giovinco-ness last just long enough to see them break into the playoffs for the first time in club history (and maybe even go on a post-season run)? Only time will tell, but a victory at home in their impending mid-week encounter against Orlando would be a fantastic place to start.