On Saturday, the atmosphere at the exhibition grounds in Toronto was especially festive. Evidently the annual exhibition fair that was happening on the grounds played a roll in this, as BMO Field was encompassed by amusement park rides.
However, inside the field there was a special buzz as well: for the first time ever, as "the Ex" rolled into town it wasn't in contrast to the stadium it surrounds. It was late August, and for once Toronto FC were still in strong playoff contention.
On Saturday, long suffered supporters of Toronto FC had plenty to celebrate. It started with a 2-1 win against the Montreal Impact, meaning TFC had beaten their biggest rival in the season series and exacted revenge for the Impact eliminating them from the Voyageur's Cup.
It was also Toronto's seventh win at home, tying the record for most home wins they have ever had in a season, which was set in 2014. They also tied their most overall wins, with 11. Both records stand to be broken shortly, as Toronto have six home games left this season.
Before the season began, Toronto FC set out a goal for their newly renovated stadium, they wanted to return its reputation as a "fortress" for the home side. This hasn't been the case since 2009, the only season that Toronto had a winning home record.
There is still plenty of time left in the season, but for the first time since that 2009 season, and arguably for most of 2010 as well, BMO Field is starting to feel like a fortress again.
It starts with the atmosphere, which has taken a significant hit over the years due in no small part to the frustrating lack of success on the pitch. But BMO Field is filling up again, and with it the excitement and once talk of the league atmosphere is slowly returning.
The Montreal Impact game represented Toronto's second sellout of the year, following in the footsteps of their home opener against the Houston Dynamo back in April. With the in vogue Blue Jays playing not far away this was good news for the health of the franchise.
A south end that was once the most feared section in the entire league is returning to its former glory. This is largely due to the emergence of the Inebriatti, and the movement of the Kings of the North. Once again, from 111 to 118 the south end of BMO Field is electric.
However, the most important aspect of a "fortress" is not the fan support, that is secondary, it is the ability of the home team to get meaningful results. With 7 wins 1 draw and only 3 losses at home this season Toronto are well on their way to their best home season ever.
At home Toronto FC have scored 22 goals and only conceded 12 in the 11 games they have played so far this year. This stands in stark contrast to their road form, where they have won 4, tied 3 and lost 7.
On the road their defense has also been significantly worse. While they concede just over one goals per game at home, a solid number, they concede one more goal per game on the road. So far this year that has amounted to a deplorable 30 goals against in just 14 away matches.
Another key reason for this success has been Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who has truly been leading by example at BMO Field. When the new stadium renovations were finished, Bradley was undoubtedly one of the most enthusiastic people about the changes.
He has been showing that enthusiasm: 3 of his 4 goals this season have come at home, along with all six of his assists. This week he was once again the man of the match as he scored the first goal against Montreal and played a key role in setting up the second.
After this weekend's match against the Seattle Sounders, Toronto will play six straight home games in the most important stretch of their season, where winning half of those games would all but guarantee them a playoff position.
Toronto still need to finish the season with a winning home record, and qualify for the playoffs, should they want the "fortress" reputation of BMO Field to officially return. But this weekend's match represented the closest it has come in this decade.