Major League Soccer dropped the 2016 schedule this afternoon and for Toronto FC, the front and back ends of the campaign look very much like they did last year.
The reds spend the first two months of the season on the road thanks to Phase two of the BMO Field overhaul. Most of September and October will be spent at home with five of the final six fixtures on home soil. The lone away game in that stretch is October 16th at Saputo Stadium.
TFC only take to the pitch twice in the month of June as a result of a two week league shutdown for the Copa America Centenario. That shutdown is good news for Toronto. It is almost an ironclad guarantee that Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore will be away from the team at that time with the United States national team for that tournament. Euro 2016 will be going on at the same time. There is a real possibility that Sebastian Giovinco could be spending June and the early part of July in France with the Italian national team. The fewer games that TFC have to play during that busy international stretch, the better.
Let's take a closer look at the 2016 schedule for Toronto FC:
The first eight games will be about survival for TFC. Toronto will need to find a minimum of between eight and twelve points over those eight matches in order to not be behind the eight ball coming home in May. The reds jump into the deep end with the opener at Red Bull Arena followed by games at NYCFC and Sporting Kansas City. TFC has traditionally had little to no success on the road against any of these teams. They will need to find a result from at least one of these games.
Drew Moor's homecoming in Colorado looks to be the most winnable of the opening eight. However, games in the thin Rocky Mountain air are always dangerous for teams like Toronto, who play at a much lower altitude. Toronto will need to jump on the Rapids early before the legs start to get weary later on in the match.
The trip ends at Providence Park in Portland for a date with the champs after stops in New England, D.C. and Montreal.
Six of eight games on that opening trip are against teams who were playoff worthy last year and the bookends are the Supporters Shield winners at the front and the MLS Cup winners on the end. Fans will most certainly find out a lot about the character and identity of this team during those eight games.
It's home sweet home for four after the monster season opening trip. FC Dallas, Vancouver, NYCFC and 2015 Eastern Conference champions, Columbus Crew get things going at the "new" BMO Field. These four games could be crucial for the reds, especially if the road trip doesn't go well. These are difficult opponents. Failure to pick up points over these four games could end up spelling another doomed season for Toronto FC.
TFC host LA Galaxy on June 18th. This will most certainly be the only regular season appearance at BMO Field for former Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard.
Toronto FC will be in good shape if they are hanging in the playoff race by the time D.C. United comes to Toronto on July 23rd. At that point they will have played 19 games, 12 of those on the road. Winning away games in this league isn't easy, if they can string together enough results from those games, they'll be in great shape with ten of the final fifteen games in front of the home support at BMO Field.
The push for the playoffs, the last ten games are all against Eastern Conference opponents and will be mostly at home. The four road games are in Philly, Orlando, Chicago and Montreal. Three of those four missed the playoffs last year and the road ahead for Montreal seems uncertain at best with Didier Drogba's future still up in the air. All of those games on paper appear to be winnable. The six home games, all of which fall in the final eight games of the season are against Montreal, Red Bulls, Philadelphia, Orlando, D.C and the Decision Day tilt against Chicago. It is likely that at least four of those teams will be either fighting for a playoff spot or will be trying enhance seeding, making these potentially six point swing games. The reds will find out whether they are contenders in the East during these final ten games leading into the playoffs.